Just a week after settling a racial discrimination case in Massachusetts, the Hudson’s Bay Co. is in hot water again. This time in New York.
The Canadian retail business, which owns Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor, among other properties, recently settled a racial profiling case in Massachusetts, agreeing to pay $100,000 and retrain its staff at all Lord & Taylor stores in the state.
Now the company’s sister store, Saks Fifth Avenue, has been hit with a lawsuit. Eight former employees filed a race and age discrimination case in a New York court claiming they were subjected to a “hostile work environment” that displayed a “reckless disregard” for its employees, never promoted them and eventually fired them.
The former Saks employees, all men — four African-American, two Latino and two elderly caucasians — all worked in customer-facing roles at the flagship in Manhattan. They were expected to meet sales goals.
During their tenure they allege they were subjected to a “pervasive pattern of discrimination.”
“Specifically, the defendants segregated the plaintiffs by placing them in areas within the men’s department with limited customer traffic and far removed from the department’s front entrance,” the court documents read. “This discriminatory placement prevented the plaintiffs from obtaining new customers because their younger and/or caucasian counterparts were assigned to work in areas with high customer traffic, which allowed them to easily engage new customers.”
In addition, the men said they were denied help with technical issues, such as implementing customer registrations into company computers.
“This treatment stands in stark contrast to how their younger and/or caucasian counterparts who were supported by their managers [were treated],” the documents continued, and said Saks had “a glass ceiling preventing their African-American and Hispanic employees from advancing.”
Furthermore, court documents describe Saks as “malicious” and said the company later retaliated against the men by firing them after at least one man went to human resources to voice his complaints.
The men said they suffered financially and psychologically as a result, including “severe mental anguish and emotional distress” as well as a loss of “personal dignity.”
A spokesperson for Hudson’s Bay, which acquired Saks Fifth Avenue in 2013, released a statement saying, “While we do not comment on pending litigation, we take these allegations seriously as we are committed to diversity and inclusion across our organization.”
The case highlights a string of racial discrimination cases in the retail industry. Swiss luxury group Richemont was hit with a lawsuit after an African-American employee said she was treated unfairly because of her race. Employees at Kering Americas and Alexander McQueen Trading America have filed similar claims. In an ongoing case between a former L’Oréal marketing exec and the beauty company, Amanda Johnson alleged she was the victim of race and gender discrimination while employed by the company.
“Unfortunately, bias and prejudices exist in society,” said Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, who made the ruling on the Lord & Taylor case. “I don’t think it’s anything specific to one particular business.”