Header Image

CPD In the News

| Combating Wage Theft, Improving Job Quality
Published By:Allure Magazine

Versace Sued for Allegedly Using a Code Word to Profile Black Shoppers (Update)

Update: December 30, 2016, 12:00 p.m. EST: Versace has issued a statement affirming its commitment to equality: “Versace believes strongly in equal opportunity, as an employer and a retailer. We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws. We have denied the allegations in this suit, and we will not comment further concerning pending litigation.”

Originally posted on December 27, 2016:

Versace is coming under fire for allegedly using a secret code to alert workers when an African-American person enters the store. A former employee who says he experienced the shocking scenario firsthand is suing for unpaid wages and damages.

According to the lawsuit, Christopher Sampiro, 23, claims the employees at the Bay Area Versace location used the code word “D410” to casually let each other know when a black person entered the store. The exact code is also used to identify all black clothing. After learning of the practice, the plaintiff, who self-identifies as one-quarter African American, responded to his manager by asking, "You know that I'm African American?" Following the exchange, Sampiro claims he was denied rest breaks and a "legitimate" training. He was fired two weeks later.

The management told Sampiro that he was let go because he hadn't "lived the luxury life," the lawsuit reports. Versace denied the allegations and filed a request for dismissal of the suit—but this isn’t the first time the Italian fashion house has gotten into trouble for its similarly questionable actions related to race.

Earlier this summer, the company released its fall 2016 ad featuring Gigi Hadid as the matriarch of an interracial family. While the campaign initially received praise for the depiction of a racially-diverse family, people were later upset to find that the 21-year-old model was depicted as a mother of two small children. One of the black children also appeared to be strapped into its stroller with a metal chain...it was odd, to say the least. In response to the criticism, Versace released a statement that said, "The campaign is made of a series of tableaux, some real-life and some fantastical. One part of the story is very glamorous, almost a fantasy, a kind of dream. The other part of the story is the same people, but in their real lives.”

Legal controversy related to race isn't new in the world of fashion. Last year, the Center for Popular Democracy accused Zara of racial profiling in a new report compiled from a survey of 251 Zara employees in New York City. According to the report, the store employees used the word “special order” to trail black customers who were deemed potential thieves while shopping. In the survey, 46 percent of employees claimed black customers were called “special orders” "always" or "often," while 14 percent said the same about Latino customers and 7 percent said the same about whites.

While Zara refuted the claims, both Versace and the Spanish retailer's cases, if proven to be true, show that the industry still clearly has a long way to go when it comes to diversity.