The American-based retail clothing firm Abercrombie & Fitch is due to open its first store north of the Border in the new Union Square mall in Aberdeen.
But the company has sparked a storm of protest after erecting a recruitment poster that reads: "We are looking for cool and good-looking people to come and represent our brands."
Last year Abercrombie & Fitch was ordered to pay 9,000 to Riam Dean, 22, a law student with a prosthetic arm, who claimed she was banished to the stockroom of the firm's flagship store in London's Savile Row because she did not fit its "look" policy. An employment tribunal in London ruled she had been wrongfully dismissed and the company had "violated" Miss Dean's dignity.
Anne Begg, Labour MP for Aberdeen South, who is disabled, said: "I don't have any problem with the advert. But it's what they define as cool and good-looking that might be a problem. There are plenty of disabled people who are cool and good-looking. If they were to define being cool as being non-disabled, then that would be discriminatory." She added: "There is no age discrimination under the legislation so they can discriminate on the grounds of age. But there are some pretty cool older people in any case. Are they going to turn away George Clooney? I don't think so."
Kelly Cumming, 22, who lost her leg to cancer, also hit out at the company's stance. She said: "I love Abercrombie & Fitch's clothes – but what they're doing is not right. The advert will definitely put disabled people off from applying. Given the shop's track record it's going to make people very wary."
David Hughes, an employment law partner at Simpson & Marwick solicitors in Aberdeen, said the advert itself did not breach the laws on discrimination, but it could create a legal inference that the employer intended to apply unlawful or discriminatory practices in hiring staff.
A spokesman for Abercrombie & Fitch refuted the discrimination claims. He said: "Abercrombie & Fitch has a strong anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy and is committed to ensuring a diverse work force and to providing equal employment opportunities to all individuals. We are looking for fun people with a great appearance and sense of style to represent our brand and market our clothes."
He added: "Diversity is always an important part of our staffing strategy. We believe there are fun people with great appearance and sense of style from all backgrounds and walks of life and we do not tolerate discrimination in hiring or employment."
It was revealed last month that the dating site BeautifulPeople.com has axed some 5,000 members after complaints that they had gained weight. The so-called "festive fatties" posted pictures of themselves reportedly showing they had put on pounds over the holiday period.