News Column

Former Target Employees Claim Racial Harassment

July 11, 2013
target store

Former employees of a Target distribution warehouse in Woodland are suing the retail giant on charges of racial discrimination and harassment, claiming that managers abused them verbally and used racial epithets to demean them.

The lawsuit, filed June 21 in Yolo Superior Court, alleges that the three Latino plaintiffs were fired because of their race and age.

One plaintiff was fired after complaining about the remarks and believes his termination was due to being an older Latino, according to the suit. The other two plaintiffs also believe they were fired because they were older Latinos.

The suit says offensive comments were made daily such as "You've got to be a Mexican to work like this" and "wetback."

The suit includes a memo titled "Organizational effectiveness," which bears the Target logo and the subheading "Employee and labor relations multi-cultural tips."

The memo, which the suit alleges was provided by Target Corp. to the warehouse, contains advice aimed at fostering "an inclusive culture." It includes statements such as "Food: Not everyone eats tacos and burritos," and "Dress: Not everyone wears a sombrero."

The memo also notes that employees from another culture may say, "OK, OK and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face."

The memo also says Latinos hold family as "the highest priority," and "typically maintain a sense of power distance from their superiors showing respect and obedience." Because of this distance, the memo concludes, "Hispanics may have difficulty taking initiative on certain tasks."

A Target representative said Wednesday the memo was only used in one distribution center and does not reflect the company's values.

"It is never Target's intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize," wrote Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target.

Snyder did not immediately comment on who would have had authority to circulate the memo included in the lawsuit or whether Target had taken any disciplinary action.

Target Corp. was served with the lawsuit Wednesday, plaintiffs' attorney Ilija Cvetich said. One of the plaintiffs, Robert Gonzalez, has been scheduled for an Oct. 21 conference related to the case, according to documents accompanying the complaint.

Cvetich said he was surprised when the plaintiffs showed him the memo.

"To be honest with you, all of us were stunned like something like this was actually issued," he said. "It is 2013, you know."

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(c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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