Fashion Chain Zara Profiles Shoppers As ‘Black Thieves,’ Workers Say

June 24, 2015  |  

Retail employees from six Zara stores in New York City claim the fashion chain encourages workers to “target potential thieves” in a practice known as “special orders,” Forbes reports. The tactic allegedly leads to racial profiling of Black shoppers.

Forty-three percent of Zara employees, in the new report, did not answer the questions about the “special orders,” but among the 57 percent that did, 46 percent said Black customers were labeled as “special orders” always or often. Compare this to 14 percent of Latinos and seven percent of Whites.

“Most employees broadly defined the term ‘special order’ as a code that is used when someone ‘suspicious’ — ‘a potential thief’ —walks into the store,” the study said, according to Forbes. “Once a ‘special order’ has been called and the customer is described over the headset, employees and managers follow that customer.”

Employees also claimed that special orders were defined as “anyone who looks Black, not put together or urban.”

But Zara’s alleged discriminatory practices does not stop there. The fashion chain also faces some challenges within. According to the survey, darker-skinned employees reported that they are least likely to move up the ranks. Black Zara employees are also twice as likely as Whites to be dissatisfied with work hours.

“Of workers surveyed in the lower prestige back-of-store roles, 68 percent have darker skin,” the survey reported.

This isn’t the first time Zara faced claims of discrimination. Earlier this June, Forbes reported that the fashion retailer was slapped with a $40 million lawsuit for anti-gay and anti-Semitism discrimination.

As for the new report, Zara calls the conclusions “baseless”:

“The baseless report was prepared with ulterior motives and not because of any actual discrimination or mistreatment. It makes assertions that cannot be supported and do not reflect Zara’s diverse workforce.”

The survey was conducted by Center for Popular Democracy, a labor advocacy group.

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