NEWS

Former Versace Store Clerk Sues Over Secret 'Black Code' For Minority Shoppers

27/12/2016 15:21 SAST | Updated 27/12/2016 19:47 SAST
Neil Hall / Reuters
Gigi Hadid, winner of the International Model award (R) and designer Donatello Versace pose for photographers at the Fashion Awards 2016 in London, Britain December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall

A former Versace employee is suing the luxury retail operation, accusing the fashion business of discrimination for its use of a secret “black code” to alert staff and security when a black shopper is in the store, according to the court action.

The former employee claims in a 30-page lawsuit that a store in the San Francisco Bay Area where he was hired in September 2016 uses the code “D410” to communicate when a black shopper is in the store. (The code is also the brand’s label for a black shirt.)  

“The manager instructed the plaintiff to say ‘D410’ in a causal manner when a black person entered the store” to “alert co-workers,” states the suit, filed last month in the California Superior Court in Alameda County. 

The worker was fired just weeks later after he told the manager that he was African-American, TMZ reported.

He says in the lawsuit that he was told he lost his job because he hadn’t “lived the luxury life.”

He’s suing for unpaid wages and damages. Versace has denied the allegations, and has filed a request for dismissal of the suit.

The suit was filed on the worker’s own behalf as well as others “similarly situated and the general public.”

It’s the second time this year that Versace has pointedly been accused of racism: The fashion label was also slammed for promoting teen pregnancy. Critics blasted a Versace ad campaign in June featuring super model Gigi Hadid, 21, with a black male model walking a child old enough to be in the first grade, indicating an extremely early pregnancy. While some laud the depiction of an interracial relationship, others have labeled the ad “Teen Mom: Versace Edition.”

Donatella Versace defended the “bold” ad and Hadid’s “amazing strength of character,” without directly addressing the early-pregnancy controversy.