Apparently, racial discrimination is the new black if you work or shop at the Versace Outlet Store in Pleasanton, California. A lawsuit recently filed on November 16, 2016 by former employee Christopher Sampino, 23, alleges that management trains its employees to use a special code word, "D410," to alert employees that a Black shopper has entered the store. According to Complex (per Fashionista), D410 is Versace's "official code for black-color clothing."
Sampino was hired back in mid-September. During his training, he was made aware of the practice which profiles Black shoppers and prompts employees to monitor their activity. He says that managers told him that he could "hold up a black shirt" while casually saying "D410" because most shoppers wouldn't know what it meant. When Sampino informed his manager that he was, in fact, one-quarter Black, he alleges that he received inferior training, was denied breaks, compensation, and access to the employee online pay portal to retrieve pay stubs, and was subsequently fired for reasons other than job performance after only two weeks on the job.
According to Sampino, managers told him that he was being released because he "[doesn't] understand luxury" and "[doesn't] know the luxury life," which is curious as suitability for high-end retail sales is usually assessed during the employment screening process. (Employee training usually lasts a bit longer than 2 weeks, right?) Sampino also states that managers urged him to quit because "that would make paperwork easier."
(Um. Side bar, here. Black people do wear Versace. They shop in Versace stores. Business owners figured out decades ago that diversity is just good business. People like to see themselves represented in the faces of the people they do business with, right? If Serena Williams walks into your store, will you "code Black" her, too?)
Versace USA, Inc. responded to the lawsuit filed in Alameda County Superior Court of the State of California denying all charges and asking a judge to dismiss the case. In a statement received by CNN, the company asserted its commitment to fair and equal business practices saying, "Versace believes strongly in equal opportunity, as an employer and a retailer. We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws. We have denied the allegations in this suit, and we will not comment further concerning pending litigation."
Reportedly, Sampino is seeking unpaid wages and punitive damages totaling $250,000. Because of the amount, Versace's legal team is requesting that the case be moved to federal court. There is a case status conference scheduled for March 21, 2017 to determine if and how the case will move forward. Sampino is also seeking class action against the company regarding pay practices, break periods, and prevention of employee discrimination.
Whether or not Sampino wins is anybody's call. But if any of what he alleges is true, then you can best believe that Versace staff will think twice before they try a stunt like this again. This is a business. Versace has consistently marketed its brand using supermodel Naomi Campbell and has dressed notable Black women like the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. The fallout from this mess could be crippling for the Versace brand and put them in the red. Aside from the mannequin displays in their stores, the only color that their store managers should concern themselves with going forward is green.