Lawsuit Outlines Abercrombie and Fitch’s CEO Michael Jeffries’ Rules on Company Jet
(PHILADELPHIA) -- A lawsuit and documents filed in a case against clothier Abercrombie & Fitch lays out the details of CEO Michael Jeffries' meticulous instructions for those serving him on the company's private jet, which includes well-shaved, boxer-clad models wearing color-specific hand gloves, a Phil Collins song playing during boarding and specific seating arrangements for his dogs.
The details were revealed in a case filed in federal court in Philadelphia by corporate jet pilot Michael Stephen Bustin, 55, who claims he was fired in December 2009 because of his age. In the case Jeffries, 68, is being accused of age discrimination.
The suit filed against Abercrombie & Fitch and obtained by ABC News states that the company terminated Bustin's employment "with the express intention of hiring younger pilots who were more in keeping with the defendant's corporate image ... which emphasized a 'youthful, all-American style.'"
The suit says that a 47-page "aircraft standards" manual states that male flight crew members aboard the company's Gulfstream G550 jet must wear A&F polo shirts, boxer briefs, flip-flops and a "spritz" of the A&F cologne, Bloomberg News reported.
As passengers board the aircraft for return flights, the 1985 Phil Collins hit "Take Me Home" must be piped over the cabin PA, according to the manual, and the executive's three dogs -- named as Ruby, Trouble and Sammy -- had specific seats based on which was traveling, according to the manual, Bloomberg reported.
The rules for serving Jeffries also state that staff must wear black gloves when handling silverware and white gloves for setting the table. Flight crew members are also banned from wearing coats unless the temperature falls below 50 degrees, according to Bloomberg.
Airline crew must "not expose the toilet paper and do not fold the end square," according to the manual, and "when [passengers] make a request, respond by saying 'no problem.' This should be used in place of phrases like, 'Sure' or, 'Just a minute,'" Bloomberg News reported.
Pilots on the company's private jets are not employed by Abercrombie & Fitch, and cabin crew are provided by a modeling agency. Bustin was employed by several companies that were contracted out by A&F, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit also cites a 2006 Salon.com interview with Jeffries, where he stated that the company "go[es] after the attractive all-American kid … a lot of people don't belong in our clothes and they can't belong," along with a Time interview where Jeffries states that he likes to hire employees as young as the college-aged customers he seeks to attract.
Jeffries also often made "disparaging or exclusionary comments about older individuals," the complaint states.
Calls placed by ABC News to Abercrombie & Fitch's General Counsel Ronald A. "Rocky" Robins, Jr. and the attorney listed as representing Bustin in the docket report were unanswered.
Though the court case was filed in 2010, documents filed since have highlighted Jeffries' meticulous control over the staff of his New Albany, Ohio-based company.
Last week, cashiers at Abercrombie & Fitch, started a petition with the labor group Retail Action Project on Change.org to request an end to "erratic scheduling" and "abusive on-call shifts" that leave workers waiting by the phone for work that sometimes does not come.
The details of the case also come at a time when the sales at the company whose marketing flaunts youth and beauty with scantily-clad models are slumping. After over a decade of continuous growth, since 2008 the company's revenue has slipped, and in its previous two fiscal quarters dropped 2.5 percent. The retailer announced this summer that it will shutter 180 U.S. locations through 2015.
The sales slump may be a symptom of the retailer's need for an image rebrand after a successful 13-year run, according to retail analyst Jennifer Black. In her second-quarter analysis of the retailer, she notes that the exiting of poorly performing stores along with better expense control will improve earnings.
"Mike [Jeffries] is a very talented merchant, but I feel like the stores -- the whole dark environment -- it's just not cool in the U.S. anymore," she told ABC News. "I do think they could turn it around if they downsize to productive stores in productive malls, while simultaneously changing the merchandise to inject more fashion so it doesn't look so much the same. "
Black said in her report that she thinks the brand could be poised for a comeback in the critical holiday season and throughout 2013.
In 2008, A&F renewed Jeffries' employment agreement until February 2014.
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