Original article posted on WWD
NEW YORK — Two employees have filed a lawsuit against Kering Americas Inc., Alexander McQueen Trading America Inc. and others alleging racial discrimination, among other causes of action. Unfortunately this is not the first time Kering has been accused of racial discrimination by their employees.
Christopher Policard and Duane Davis filed their lawsuit in a New York state court in Manhattan on Wednesday. The other defendants named in the suit were Alexander McQueen Trading Ltd., Catherine Flynn, Georgina Coleman, Samantha Boykin and Sidra Castor. The individual defendants are either managers or supervisors employed by Alexander McQueen or Kering, parent of McQueen.
The complaint said the fashion house has “engaged in systematic racism against Kering’s African-American employees.” Policard is employed as an inventory supervisor, while Davis is an inventory clerk. The lawsuit alleged a systematic rejection of “African-American job applicants who seek positions on the sales floor where they can be seen by customers or positions where they might have authority over the white employees, relegating the few African-Americans who are hired to menial positions behind the scenes.”
The lawsuit also charged that the only time the plaintiffs are seen by customers is when “Kering searches them for theft in front of other employees and customers, which is done on the floor during business hours. White employees, on the other hand, are screened for theft after closing and in private.”
The plaintiffs also alleged in the lawsuit that after they filed a complaint seeking corrective action, the defendants embarked on a course of retaliation that included being left out of important company meetings, spoken to disrespectfully and being denied vacation time.
The complaint listed four causes of action against all the defendants: Racial harassment and hostile workplace; racial discrimination; retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The plaintiffs are seeking a declaratory judgment that the defendants’ practices are in violation of applicable New York Human Rights Law. They also want to bar the defendants from implementing or enforcing any policy or practices that denies any employee from fully enjoying the benefits and promotional opportunities within the company. They are also seeking monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuit against Kering America, Inc., which operates Alexander McQueen in addition to world-famous luxury fashion houses such as Gucci, Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, isn’t the first discrimination lawsuit hit by the company.
The British luxury brand, which makes dresses often worn by the likes of Michelle Obama and Beyoncé, was hit with similar charges in 2013 when a security guard working at the company’s Meatpacking store claimed he was subject to racist comments by a manager who is also named in Policard and Davis’ suit.
In addition, a Hispanic saleswoman filed a suit in 2013 claiming a boss called her “burrito face” and “Goya princess,” before she was fired.
“It is disturbing that in 2015 that this type of open discrimination continues to happen at the highest levels of the fashion community. Since 2013, the Alexander McQueen and Kering organizations have been on notice of racial discrimination claims but apparently have done very little if anything to fix the problem,” attorney Eric Baum said. “This lawsuit is brought not only to remedy the harm caused to our clients but to send a message to the defendants and the entire retail industry that no level of discrimination will be tolerated by the African-American community.”
Peter Mastrostefano, the attorney for Kering Americas, could not be immediately reached for comment. The other defendants could not be reached for comment.