Some business and economic gurus argue that since the aim of business is to maximize profits, then ethics need not be applied in it. To them, social responsibility of a business only serves eat into the firm’s profitability. They also argue that a company can take any action provided the action maximizes the company’s profitability. According to them, a company can employ any employment policy provided the policy will result into enhanced profitability. On the other hand, proponents of business ethics argue that they are necessary since business can go unethical in their practices. This is because businesses do not operate in a vacuum and hence they are duty bound and accountable to the social and natural environment in which they operate. To the proponents, any action a business undertakes has an effect on its stakeholders. Thus, application of business ethics is also likely to boost profitability.
This paper attempts to analyze the various approaches applied by businesses in achieving their goals and also in solving various organizational problems. The paper will focus on Abercrombie and Fitch’s problem in its employment policy which is based on appearance and attractiveness. The paper will analyze the problem in question, discuss the various ethical theories applicable in solving this problem and finally present the best solution to this problem based on the theories identified.
Abercrombie and Fitch is a large scale American fashion retailer mainly dealing with casual wear and accessories. Its target market is consumers aged between 18 and 22 years though it also deals with consumers from other age groups. Founded in 1892, the company has grown to establish over 300 branches in the US and also internationally. Its head offices are located in New Albany, Ohio.
The company employs brand representatives or models for customer service within its branches. According to Jezebel .com, “the aim of using the models is to improve the company’s image given the kind of business in which it is involved”. The models however have to comply with looks policy i.e a certain looks criteria. This probably explains why the company has found itself in legal suits because of discriminatory employment. “The company has been accused of giving desirable positions exclusively to the whites and hence excluding the minorities” (Patzer).
Legal proceedings against the company’s business policies of only hiring physically attractive people regardless of their gender began in 2003 when a formal law suit was filed against the company. As McKenna puts it, “Consequently the company paid 50 million dollars as an outside court settlement”. The evidence given in the court by two former employees indicated that the company was after certain looks and the less attractive a salesperson was, the less likely he was to work for the company. A former manager is said to have reported of how frustrated she was .she oftenly had to tell people that there were no jobs when jobs were actually there but the potential employees weren’t pretty enough. The manager is also said to have claimed that her physical attractiveness largely contributed to her getting the job (about 90 percent) while other factors were of minimal importance.
Another evidence of Abercrombie and Fitch’s policy of hiring based on looks is a case filed by a Muslim girl who claimed that she was fired by the company for refusing to remove her hijab. This she argues infringed on her religious right and there is no way she would have removed her head scarf. According to McKenna, “The council on American –Islamic relations filed the suit against the company on behalf of Hani Khan”. According to her, she had initially been allowed to wear the hijab but later a manager disputed this and eventually she was fired for refusing to remove it. In 2008, another girl accused the company of refusing to employ her since her hijab didn’t fit the company’s image (McKenna).
In all the above cases, Abercrombie and Fitch Company has been forced to pay millions of dollars for its employment policy which discriminates on certain people based on looks. The question that arises is whether the company is justified in pegging its employment policies based on looks. If the company is justified, what becomes the fate of those who don’t meet the looks criteria? Can the company be accused of racism in its employment practices?
According to the company, people who are attractive are likely to improve the company’s image. They are hence likely to fetch more dollars for the company compared to the less attractive people. Its situation is purely about business based on the need to maximize profits. The company believes that the policy is based on its best interests. According to the company, the discrimination is not based on race or gender. They claim that the policy is based on lookism rather than gender or racism. By this the company implies that applications from blacks, whites or Muslims are all handled in the same manner .according to them, the most pretty person eventually gets the job. On the other hand, the complainants argue that the company’s policy is based on racism. They argue that they are denied jobs based on their races and physical characteristics all of which are natural. According to them, they did nothing to contribute to their looks or race and hence the policy is wrong. As stated by Legge, “it’s only ethically right to base employment on qualifications rather than looks. The company ought to apply the equal opportunities act in its hiring practices” (Legge 175).