Ex-Versace Employee Claims Company Uses Racist ‘Code’ for Black Customers
A former Versace employee is suing the luxury company for racial discrimination and unfair business practices, claiming the retailer uses a secret “code” to alert staff and security whenever a black customer enters a store.
Christopher Sampiro, 23, alleges that he was fired from one of Versace’s outlets stores in the Bay Area in October for telling his manager that he was African-American, after only two weeks on the job.
Sampiro also says that during his employee training, he was asked if he knew about the “D410 Code”– the color code for all black clothing at Versace.
When he said he didn’t, the manager then instructed him that whenever “a black person entered the store,” he should say “D410” in a causal manner to “alert co-workers” that a black person was there, according to the lawsuit.
The training manager added that when using the secret code, he should hold a black shirt so that “they” wouldn’t know what he was talking about.
A surprised Sampiro responded by pointing out that he was himself African-American — much to the manager’s surprise. Sampiro self-identifies as “one quarter African American” in the lawsuit.)
After he was made aware of his race, the manager started treating him differently, refusing to give him breaks and proper training, according to the suit, filed last month in the California Superior Court in Alameda County.
Sampiro says he was terminated after two weeks, not because of his performance but because he didn’t “understand luxury” and hadn’t lived “the luxury life.”
The plaintiff is now suing for unpaid wages and unspecified damages.
The high-end retail brand has already denied the allegations, and filed a request for dismissal of the suit.
“We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights law” a Versace rep told TMZ.
The controversy comes in the heels of other incidents of racial profiling in retail stores across the country, in which black customers have been followed or accused of stealing before even stepping foot outside of the store.
Earlier this month, Victoria’s Secret was forced to apologize to an African American customer who says she was racially profiled after she and another black woman were asked to leave the store for no apparent reason.