A survey by the Center for Popular Democracy claims that the Spanish retail store, Zara, consistently discriminates against Black customers and employees alike.
251 employees participated on the survey, which was conducted by the union-allied workers’ rights campaign, according to the Guardian.
Zara labels suspicious customers or potential thieves with the code words “special orders” and the individual is followed around the store once they are deemed a special order.
Employees quoted in the survey said special orders were identified by “dressing a certain way” and were “mostly African American”, according to the CPD. One employee told the group he felt “that black customers were targeted when it came to stealing”, the report said.
The report also claims that employees of color face unequal conditions within the company’s eight New York City stores, which can affect promotions, hours, management evaluation and general treatment of employees.
The report, compiled from surveys conducted between February and April, claimed employees said that managers showed favoritism, and “many of the employees interviewed felt that favoritism is based on race”.
A spokesperson for Zara USA denied any of the claims were accurate.
“Zara USA vehemently refutes the findings of the Center for Popular Democracy report, which was published without any attempt to contact the company,” the spokesperson said in a statement to the Guardian.
“We are an equal opportunity employer, and if there are individuals who are not satisfied with any aspect of their employment, we have multiple avenues for them to raise issues that we would immediately investigate and address.”
The spokesperson also had an explanation for the use of the term “special order”, saying it’s simply company policy and had nothing to do with racial profiling.
“The expression ‘special order’ is a term used to designate a common situation in which associates are requested to enforce customer service and zone coverage on the floor. It does not designate a person or group of people of any category.”
Unfortunately for Zara, this isn’t the first time they’ve been in the media for blatant discrimination and harassment. Earlier this month, Ian Miller, who was employed as the general counsel for Zara USA from 2008 to March, filed a $40 million lawsuit against the company. He alleges they excluding him from meetings, continuously cut his wages, and ridiculed him verbally and through email.
Upon discovery that Miller was Jewish, his co-workers and bosses added antisemitic comments to the racist and homophobic remarks they had already been subjecting him to.
In addition to outright discrimination, the company has also been reprimanded for some controversial items they put up for sale in their stores. One of the items was a handbag which features swastikas, while another item appalled many with its close resemblance to the attire Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.