Versace Accused of Using a Code Word for Black Customers in Lawsuit

An ex-employee of a Bay Area store is suing the retailer for alleged racial discrimination.
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An ex-employee of a Bay Area store is suing the retailer for alleged racial discrimination.
The Versace boutique in GUM, a department store in Moscow. Photo: @versace_official/Instagram

The Versace boutique in GUM, a department store in Moscow. Photo: @versace_official/Instagram

Versace is the latest retailer to face accusations of racially profiling its customers. According to a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the State of California on Nov. 16 (and obtained by Complex) — Sampino v. Versace USA, Inc. — former employee Christopher Sampino, 23, is claiming that managers of a Bay Area shop trained its sales staff to follow certain discriminatory procedures. 

Sampino stated that he was instructed to use code word "D410" to alert employees when a black customer entered the store. (Complex notes that D410 is Versace's "official code for black-color clothing.") Upon receiving this instruction, Sampino reportedly responded to his manager with the following: "You know that I'm African-American?" (The lawsuit notes that Sampino is one quarter African-American.) He alleges that, following this comment, he received lesser treatment from the store's management.

The lawsuit states:

"On information and belief, managers treated Plaintiff differently after he announced that he is African American. For example, Plaintiff observed that training no longer seemed legitimate after he announced that he is African American. On information and believe, Plaintiff did not receive proper training with regard to rest breaks and did not take rest breaks. Plaintiff further did not receive login information needed to access an online database where employees retrieved print outs of pay stubs."

The lawsuit goes on to explain that though Sampino "met or exceed expectations with regards to job performance," he was terminated "on or about" Oct. 1. The store's management reportedly explained that this was because he "[doesn't] understand luxury," and that he "[doesn’t] know the luxury life." Sampino claims his employers also told him to quit because "that would make the paperwork easier."

Sampino is suing for unpaid wages and damages. Meanwhile, according to TMZ, Versace has denied all charges and filed a request to dismiss the lawsuit. Versace provided the below statement to Fashionista:

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.

We will update this story should more information become available.

Note: This story has been updated to include comment from Versace.

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