Page last updated at 17:20 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 18:20 UK

Shop boss 'was not aggressive'

Riam Dean
Miss Dean was born with her left forearm missing

A shop manager has denied "taunting" a worker who was told she could not work on the shop floor while wearing a cardigan to cover her prosthetic arm.

Riam Dean, 22, is suing Abercrombie & Fitch, saying she felt "diminished" when told to work in the stockroom for not fitting the firm's "look policy".

Maria Barbera, then manager at the Savile Row store, denied her manner was "aggressive or intimidating".

She said she told Miss Dean she could work in the shop wearing short sleeves.

Miss Dean, of Greenford, north-west London, is suing the clothing store over discrimination.

I was direct and straight to the point. I did not think my manner was aggressive or intimidating in any way
Maria Barbera, ex-manager at Abercrombie & Fitch

The student at Queen Mary University of London, who was born with her left forearm missing, claims she had been "taunted" and "goaded" by Ms Barbera.

Speaking at the tribunal Ms Barbera said: "I was aware that she had a prosthetic arm, but did not know that she had been given approval to wear clothes not in accordance with the look policy.

"I explained that she could not work on the shop floor because of her cardigan and asked that she go and work in the stockroom. Riam did not seem upset."

She confronted Miss Dean when she heard the student had told a colleague she was "kicked off" the shop floor.

'Upset and annoyed'

Ms Barbera said: "I was direct and straight to the point. I did not think my manner was aggressive or intimidating in any way.

"Riam told me she was upset because I did not give her the opportunity to take the cardigan off.

"I explained that I had wrongly assumed that she would not want to remove the cardigan."

The manager said when she told Miss Dean she could return to the shop floor, if she agreed to take off the cardigan, the student allegedly replied: "It's okay, I'm used to being the victim."

Ms Barbera said she was "upset and annoyed" by the incident but she did not make the link between the student's reluctance to take off her cardigan and her disability.

'Embellished events'

Ms Barbera is now a senior manager at the store's sister chain Hollister.

Abercrombie & Fitch lawyer Akash Nawbatt summed up by saying Ms Dean had exaggerated and embellished events.

He said her disability played no part in being removed from the shop floor and she was not dismissed because of it.

But Ms Dean's lawyer Harini Iyengar said discrimination did occur and Abercrombie & Fitch's approach meant it was "waiting to happen".

A judgement in the case is expected on 8 July.

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