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Employee Files Suit Against Tiffany & Co. for Racial Discrimination

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We've barely made it halfway through the year and another major luxury retailer is being accused of discriminatory practices. Michael McClure, the lone black person in about 200 management positions available in the company, is filing suit against Tiffany & Co., whose practices he says show “racial bias in the belief, conscious or otherwise, that African-Americans are not appropriate ambassadors for the iconic, luxurious and sophisticated Tiffany brand.” Ah, here we go…

McClure has been working for the company since 1993, most recently as a group director whose responsibilities covered more than one Tiffany location. McClure said he'd never received a negative performance review before the company appointed senior vice president for North America, Anthony Ledru, last fall. Ledru requested photographs from all store and group directors, claiming that he would be using them for reference when he traveled from store to store. Come spring, McClure said he'd received a negative review and had been placed on warning for termination, in spite of the fact that the year before one of the stores he was responsible for experienced a 15% boost in sales, and at another, a 1% the following year. His bonus, he adds, was also withheld in spite of the work he'd done. 

McClure was clearly none too happy about the review, which he suspected was part of an “apparent agenda to get rid of him from the start and racial bias at Tiffany." He then hired his own lawyer, compelling Tiffany to conduct two internal investigations of their own. But McClure's suspicions of racial bias were confirmed when he  received an anonymous internal letter reading: “Shortly after Anthony Ledru visited your market he made a comment to a small group of male market vice presidents that I think you should be made aware of. In reference to you, he expressed a surprise that ‘a black man is representing the Tiffany brand.'”

As you've already guessed, Tiffany firmly denies any kind of bias. “The lawsuit allegations are completely without merit, and the many mischaracterizations will be addressed through the legal process,” the statement said. “We welcome and value diversity in all forms and emphasize personal accountability and professionalism in a respectful and fair work environment.” We'll have to see what unfolds as the case proceeds, but at the very least, perhaps this suit will encourage Tiffany to be more diligent about recruiting people of color in their upper management. 

[via NYT]

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