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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview with Jennifer Lu, Anthony Ocampo

Aired June 18, 2003 - 19:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

19:37
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll take a look at these images from an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog. The clothing maker says they promote an image of a casual classic American lifestyle. But a new lawsuit claims that when it comes to Abercrombie & Fitch's idea of red, white and blue, the emphasis is decidedly on white. The we picked up has 206 photos in the catalog, only nine of them so non- white models. The nine plaintiffs say they were not hired or fired because they were not white enough.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KIMBERLY WEST-FAULCON, REGIONAL OFFICE DIRECTOR, LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: This shows that old-fashioned race discrimination is still in vogue, and their version of the back of the bus is to not let non- whites on their bus at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Abercrombie & Fitch declined our request for representative to appear on the air with us, but said in a statement and I quote, "Abercrombie & Fitch associates represent American style. America is diverse, and we want diversity in our stores. We do not discriminate. Our policy is to have zero tolerance for discrimination in hiring or employment on the basis of any characteristic protected by state or federal law."

Well, joining me are two of the plaintiffs in the suit.

Anthony Ocampo, and Jennifer Lu. Thanks very much for being with us.

Jennifer, I want to start off with you. You had worked at an Abercrombie store in California, for I think like three years, then for one day you were let go.

What did management say to you?

JENNIFER LU, SUING ABERCROMBIE & FITCH: Management told me that the store wasn't doing very well and they were low on hours, and they had to make cutbacks, and so they had nothing -- they could do nothing, and there you go. That's what they had to do.

COOPER: Now you suspect there was another reason at play.

Why?

LUE: Because within two weeks after my termination and five other Asian-Americans, my store hired six Caucasian males.

COOPER: So they fired you as well as five other Asian-Americans, and you're say two weeks later hired six...

LU: Caucasian males.

COOPER: Caucasian males.

LU: This was all due to a corporate blitz, which is an Abercrombie term for corporate visit. Where a corporate official came to our store and pointed to an Abercrombie poster of a white Caucasian male and said you need to have more staff that looks like this. And as a result of that, two weeks after that, we were all fired.

COOPER: Did you hear the management person say that?

LU: No, I didn't. I heard it through a co-worker, who was actually there.

COOPER: All right. Anthony, your story is different. You worked in one store. Your, I believe, a freshman as Stanford University in California and then you tried to get a job at another store.

What happened there?

ANTHONY OCAMPO, SUING ABERCROMBIE & FITCH: I was working at the Glendale Galleria store in Southern California, during the Christmas season '99-2000, and I requested a transfer to go to the Hillsdale store in Northern California, which is closer to my campus. And then my manager said that that would be fine, but when I arrived at the Hillsdale store they had they had no more room for brand representatives, and the only space they had there was for people in the stockroom.

COOPER: Brand representatives are people who work the floor, greeting customers, selling merchandise?

OCAMPO: Yes that is correct.

COOPER: So they directed you to the back room, then what happened?

OCAMPO: They told me to resubmit an application, and they said they would call me within the week. And I waited for a phone call, and no one every called. Then I finished out the school year, and my manager during the Christmas season told me I could come back to the Glendale store at anytime, so I did. When I came back to the Glendale store I spoke with one of the brand reps there who then spoke with the manager.

They conversed for a few minutes and then the brand rep came back and told me we're sorry, we couldn't rehire you because we already have too many Filipinos working here?

COOPER: They actually said that to you, we have too many Filipinos working?

OCAMPO: Yes.

COOPER: Jennifer, both of you, what do you think needs to happen?

What do you want to see happen through this lawsuit?

And while you're talking we'll be looking at some of these images. And as we say, we have this catalog, and a great majority of the images are this sort of, well, Caucasian males and females, frankly.

Jennifer, what do you want to see happen in this lawsuit?

LU: I want to see policy change in regards to how they do their hiring. It's one thing to have an all-American image, but it's another thing to hire and to fire in regards to your race. And so personally I was -- I was an employee there for a long, long time, and I thought they cared about their employees, but obviously not. My three years of experience had no bearing on my termination. It was no matter that -- it didn't matter that I had lots of experience and I had been there longer than any management had been there and all my employees and co-workers, yet they still let me go.

COOPER: Anthony, what have you taken away from this experience?

What have you learned?

OCAMPO: Well, first of all, I'd like Abercrombie to be accountable for the practices. I've learned more and more my case is not isolated case, and that it is going on all over the country. And secondly, more importantly, since Abercrombie does this themselves to be the quote unquote, "The all-American brand," I think they would do a good job to be more inclusive, so that we can sort of see this term all-American be more inclusive, to include people of color as well as...

COOPER: The notion in a all-American means Caucasian is -- whether or not that's what they believe, that notion is just absurd. Anthony Ocampo, and Jennifer Lu, thank you for joining us. And as we said, we tried to get a representative from Abercrombie & Fitch to speak on camera, and they declined.

Thanks very much joining, both of you appreciate it.

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