Former Versace employee suing company, claims discriminatory practices

- A California man is suing a high-end store, saying it discriminated against him and African-American customers.

The lawsuit was filed last month against Versace USA after an incident that happened at the San Francisco Premium Outlets store in Livermore.

KTVU spoke with the man’s lawyer and has reaction from shoppers.

The class action lawsuit states that when the man worked here, he was told to pull on a black article of clothing to give a non-verbal command that an African-American person has entered the store.

23-year-old Christopher Sampino worked at the outlet store. Sampino has filed a 30 page complaint against the sotre saying while undergoing training, he was taught to discriminate against African-Americans.

Stephen Ilg with Hoffman Employment Lawyers said the employees were trained to announce a verbal code if an African-American enters the store. A non-verbal code was also implemented where the employee would tug on a black article of clothing if a black customer entered the store.

Sampino said the verbal code was D410 and he was told to use it when an African American entered the store.

Sampino is of mixed race, including a quarter African American. He claims that he was terminated after working here less than a month.

When asked why he was being terminated, the complaint states he wasn’t let go because of performance reason, but because, “He didn’t understand luxury and because he doesn’t know the luxury life,” which his lawyers believe is also code for a racial discrimination suit.

“Given the code for a black customer, It doesn’t take much of a logical leap to assume that you haven’t lived the luxury life is code for, ‘We don’t want an African American employee and so our client was terminated,’” said Ilg.

When asked if this was a corporate policy or just a store one, the lawyers says it’s too soon to tell where the command came from, but as part of their case, they will find out.

“Typically we can connect it at least one level up the hierarchy, to the regional level. Often times we can connect it all the way to the top,” said Ilg.

Ilg says unfortunately this type of behavior by the stores isn’t new and has been common place for many establishments for years.

“It doesn’t surprise me that an upscale store like Versace would do that,” said Aeress Perkins, a shopper.

“I like the lawsuit actually, because people like us, we do need to take a stand against discrimination against stores like this and it does need to be made known publically,” said Aminah flags of Antioch.

“I think they treated us real good. I didn’t get no bad vibe off of them and I would go back to that store again,” said Marhawit Melles, of Oakland.

A California man is suing a high-end store, saying it discriminated against him and African-American customers.

The lawsuit was filed last month against Versace USA after an incident that happened at the San Francisco Premium Outlets store in Livermore.

KTVU spoke with the man’s lawyer and has reaction from shoppers.

The class action lawsuit states that when the man worked here, he was told to pull on a black article of clothing to give a non-verbal command that an African-American person has entered the store.

23-year-old Christopher Sampino worked at the outlet store. Sampino has filed a 30 page complaint against the sotre saying while undergoing training, he was taught to discriminate against African-Americans.

Stephen Ilg with Hoffman Employment Lawyers said the employees were trained to announce a verbal code if an African-American enters the store. A non-verbal code was also implemented where the employee would tug on a black article of clothing if a black customer entered the store.

Sampino said the verbal code was D410 and he was told to use it when an African American entered the store.

Sampino is of mixed race, including a quarter African American. He claims that he was terminated after working here less than a month.

When asked why he was being terminated, the complaint states he wasn’t let go because of performance reason, but because, “He didn’t understand luxury and because he doesn’t know the luxury life,” which his lawyers believe is also code for a racial discrimination suit.

“Given the code for a black customer, It doesn’t take much of a logical leap to assume that you haven’t lived the luxury life is code for, ‘We don’t want an African American employee and so our client was terminated,’” said Ilg.

When asked if this was a corporate policy or just a store one, the lawyers says it’s too soon to tell where the command came from, but as part of their case, they will find out.

“Typically we can connect it at least one level up the hierarchy, to the regional level. Often times we can connect it all the way to the top,” said Ilg.

Ilg says unfortunately this type of behavior by the stores isn’t new and has been common place for many establishments for years.

“It doesn’t surprise me that an upscale store like Versace would do that,” said Aeress Perkins, a shopper.

“I like the lawsuit actually, because people like us, we do need to take a stand against discrimination against stores like this and it does need to be made known publically,” said Aminah flags of Antioch.

“I think they treated us real good. I didn’t get no bad vibe off of them and I would go back to that store again,” said Marhawit Melles, of Oakland.

KTVU reached out to the Versace corporate communications and the lawyer representing them in this case.  Those calls and emails were not returned.  However someone from Versace told TMZ that they deny the claim and is requesting the suit is dismissed. Both sides will meet for the first time in federal in court in March.  

A rep for Versace tells TMZ the company strongly believes in equal opportunity as an employer and a retailer. They add: "We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws." Versace denies the allegations in the suit.

 

 

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