California residents may recall a 2014 uproar over a children’s shirt sold by the leading fashion retailer Zara that resembled the concentration camp uniforms worn by Holocaust victims. The Spanish company claimed that the similarity was purely coincidental, but the shirt was not the first item sold by Zara that has raised eyebrows. The company was at the center of a similar storm in 2007 when swastikas were used as a design element on a handbag. Many observers felt that the shirt and bag could be indications of an anti-Semitic corporate culture, and a $40 million discrimination lawsuit filed by a former Zara employee on June 3 may add substance to these speculations.
The workplace discrimination lawsuit is being brought by a man who says that he was Zara’s only prominent Jewish employee during his time as an attorney with the company. He claims that he attempted to keep his religion secret because many senior Zara executives had openly hostile attitudes toward Jews. The man also claims in his lawsuit that he was subjected to lewd and inappropriate behavior because he is gay.
The man says that this environment did not prevent him from performing at a high level for seven years, but he says that he was fired shortly after his Jewish heritage became known. A representative of the fashion company referred to the allegations contained in the lawsuit as “shocking” and lauded the company’s diversity and tolerance. The man has asked for a jury trial, and he is seeking greater than $40 million in damages.
State and federal legislation protects workers against discrimination in the workplace based on race, religion, sexual orientation or age, but many victims of such harassment are reluctant to pursue civil remedies. An employment law attorney with experience in discrimination cases may explain that terminating or taking retaliatory action against an employee for filing a grievance could lead to further sanctions against an employer. An attorney could also explain the procedure involved in initiating a discrimination claim.
Source: Forbes Magazine, “Fast Fashion Giant Zara Faces $40 Million Anti-Semitism, Anti-Gay Discrimination Suit”, Clare O’Connor, June 3, 2015