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The perp walk for corporate misconduct

Posted by: under Businesses in hot water, Complaint sagas, Discrimination Updated: September 9, 2009 - 11:15 AM

By James Eli Shiffer

Our story today about the hefty penalty slapped on mega-retailer Abercrombie & Fitch for discriminating against an autistic teenaged customer originated not with a Whistleblower tip, but with our regular review of state agency enforcement actions. Some of those agencies make it virtually impossible to find out about who it's punishing. They treat their fines and violation notices as essentially a private matter between them and the misbehaving institution or individual.

Not the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. Each month, it chooses an enforcement action and puts it on the home page, complete with a detailed description of its investigation. It's a conscious effort to use its power to punish violators to deter future misconduct. It's also a welcome example of transparency that clearly benefits both the agency and the public.

Abercrombie & Fitch, by contrast, wants to keep the fitting room fracas within the walls of the courtroom. Eric Cerny, a company spokesman, told me today, "I'm not going to able to comment regarding this, due to the fact that it's not our policy to comment on pending litigation." The "pending" aspect of it involves an appeal of the penalties and corrective actions ordered by the state. Whistleblower will check back in with the company once the saga, now in its fourth year, finally ends.

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