At least three former employees of the American retail chain Target recently sued the company of race discrimination and retaliation due to an alleged training document that contained racially offensive portrayals of Hispanics. The said lawsuit was filed last June in Yolo County Court in Northern California.
The lawsuit, which was filed by Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian, and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, alleged that the managers at Target’s warehouse distribution center in Woodland continuously used racial epithets when speaking to and addressing Hispanic workers. Also, the lawsuit alleged that the managers there were provided a document entitled “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Mutli-Cultural Tips.”
The said document contained negative stereotypes in which the managers should take note of in order to differentiate the Hispanic employees from the other ones. Stated in the document are the following instructions:
- a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
- b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
- c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
- d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
- e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher, education level); and
- f. They may say ‘OK, OK’ and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.
Moreover, the lawsuit cited that the three former employees were expected to work harder than their white counterparts, but during their time at Woodland, they “were not given the same overtime opportunities.”
One of the employees, Gonzalez, aired his harassment complaint with the Minneapolis-based company’s human resources department, but was not addressed. In retaliation for doing so, he was allegedly elbowed by his supervisor while he was having lunch.
Ultimately, all three employees were terminated from the company. They are seeking punitive damages for harassment, failure to prevent harassment, age and race discrimination and retaliation. Meanwhile, Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for the retail company, issued a statement and an apology on behalf of Target, saying that the instructional guide was not part of any “formal or company-wide training.”
Racial discrimination in the workplace has been a common employment issue in California, according to a Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer. It is, however, prohibited under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), making it illegal in workplaces with 5 or more employees.