Shelby Port didn't particularly like the green pants and maroon tops that were part of "The Look" she was supposed to be promoting as a...

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Shelby Port didn’t particularly like the green pants and maroon tops that were part of “The Look” she was supposed to be promoting as a saleswoman at Abercrombie & Fitch one season.

And store manager Lindsey King wasn’t too thrilled with the miniskirts she was supposed to wear daily during another seasonal promotion.

But what really got to them, they say, was that they and others had to spend their own money to buy the clothes or risk losing their jobs, according to a lawsuit filed against the clothing retailer by Port, King and other current and former Abercrombie employees.

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The suit was recently certified in King County Superior Court as a class-action lawsuit.

“Well, I didn’t want to have to show up every day in a miniskirt,” said King, a former manager at the retailer’s Bellingham store. “But the real reason I’m participating in this is because I know that what they were doing was unfair and I know they were taking advantage of the associates by making them spend more money to purchase clothes for work than they would even take home.”

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in King County Superior Court two years ago, the plaintiffs say the Midwest retailer has an unwritten — but strictly enforced — dress code that violates Washington law.

According to state law, employers cannot require employees to buy elaborate or expensive uniforms without compensation.

The suit contends that Abercrombie made a policy of requiring employees to buy and wear whatever outfits were being promoted by the company as “The Look” at the time. “The Look” changed every three months.

In addition, court documents say, employees were not allowed to wear items that had been marked for sale.

Attorneys for Abercrombie could not be reached yesterday, but in court documents filed in the case, the company says that it does not require employees to either purchase or wear the company’s clothes as a condition of employment.

Within the last few years, the company has been boycotted for marketing thongs to elementary school-age girls and for selling a T-shirt that was deemed racist by members of the Asian community.

Just recently, the company settled a $40 million race- and gender-bias suit in California, agreeing to create an office of diversity and to recruit more black, Latino and Asian employees.

Stephen P. Connor, representing the plaintiffs in the Washington state case, said he hopes the lawsuit will compel the company to reimburse employees for required clothing purchases.

A hearing on the case is scheduled for this afternoon in the courtroom of King County Superior Court Judge Julie Specter.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or