A French rights watchdog said on Wednesday it would probe whether US retailer Abercrombie & Fitch uses discriminatory recruitment methods by employing sales staff based on their looks.
The retailer, which has a flagship store on the Champs-Elysées avenue in Paris, is known for its good-looking salesmen who often stroll with their tops off in or outside the shop.
Slimane Laoufi, in charge of fighting discrimination in private firms for the "Defender of Rights" watchdog – an independent organisation that aims to protect the rights and freedoms of French citizens – told AFP the decision to launch an investigation had been made last week.
In a statement explaining the probe, the head of the organization Dominique Baudis said that Abercrombie seems "to base its recruitment methods on discriminatory criteria and particularly on physical appearance".
On the recruitment section of Abercrombie's website, the retailer appears to refer to salesmen and women as "models".
The watchdog says that models recruited by the brand, which is hugely popular with teenagers, appear "in reality to be models and vendors at the same time".
"While essential and decisive professional requirements can justify taking physical appearance into account when recruiting models, it is different for vendor positions," Baudis said.
He pointed to comments made by Mike Jeffries, head of the retailer, in 2006 when he justified recruiting "good-looking people" because they attracted "other good-looking people".
"We want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don't market to anyone other than that," he said in an interview.