* Clothing store's hiring policies under scrutiny
* Company no stranger to discrimination cases
PARIS, July 24 France's official human rights
watchdog said on Wednesday it was investigating Abercrombie &
Fitch Co over concerns the U.S. clothing retailer
discriminates in hiring store staff based on appearance.
Known for shirtless hosts at the entrance of its stores, the
company has courted controversy in the past for targeting
customers and employees based on their looks.
The rights watchdog, an official body that investigates
suspected discrimination cases, cited in particular a 2006
interview with website salon.com in which Chief Executive Mike
Jeffries said the company hires good-looking people to attract
The Defenseur des Droits watchdog said the company, whose
preppy clothes are popular with youth, has lost discrimination
lawsuits in the United States and Britain in the past.
Raising concerns that Abercrombie's hiring policies may
still be discriminatory, the watchdog said it suspected that
people hired as models for its stores were in fact also sales
"Though physical appearance may legitimately be a key and
determining professional factor for models, that's not so for
sales staff," the head of the watchdog, Dominique Baudis, said
in a statement.
The company did not immediately have a comment in response
to the investigation when contacted by Reuters about it.
The watchdog aims to wrap up its probe by the end of the
year, after which it can make recommendations to the company if
proof of discrimination is found. It cannot launch a lawsuit in
the absence of someone who says they were the victim of
Abercrombie has two stores in France, including one on
Paris' Champs Elysees avenue. A queue of youths often can be
seen waiting to get in.