Three former employees of the Target store chain are suing the retailer for alleged illegal discrimination. The former warehouse workers lawsuit cites a document distributed by Target to its managers with tips about dealing with Hispanic employees. Target’s “Multi-Cultural Tips” reminded managers that not all Hispanics eat tacos or wear sombreros.
According to Courthouse News, Target gave distribution warehouse managers a guide entitled “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips,” which dealt with numerous misconceptions about Hispanics, who come from a number of different countries and backgrounds.
According to the lawsuit filed in California’s Yolo County by Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, the document stated the following:
a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say 'OK, OK' and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.
According to Courthouse News, the plaintiffs claim they were victims of discrimination on the job, and that Target's "Multi-Cultural Tips" for managers were themselves offensive, according to Courthouse News.
Speaking earlier this week for Target, spokesperson Molly Snyder would not comment on the lawsuit and claimed that the company had not yet received it. However, she said that Target remains "firmly committed" to diversity in the workplace. "That commitment includes respecting and valuing the diverse backgrounds of our more than 361,000 team members worldwide," said Snyder. Indeed, the retail chain has shown alacrity in addressing the burgeoning Hispanic or Latino market in the US. Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel told MPR News this year, "It's a big effort that we have internally to really stretch ourselves and jump way out in front."
The plaintiffs claim in their lawsuit that nearly all the management positions were held by Caucasians, according to Courthouse News, who regularly used racial slurs while addressing Hispanic employees. They claim to have heard such remarks as "Only a 'wetback' can work this hard," "You got to be Mexican to work like this," and "What the hell, I'm already sweating like a Mexican."
Former Target warehouse worker Robert Gonzalez claims that his supervisors retaliated when he complained to the human resources department. Gonzalez claims Manager Terry McCafee, "began using more racial epithets when instructing Gonzalez on his work and would purposefully throw boxes on the ground and then order Gonzalez to pick them up in an attempt to humiliate Gonzalez amongst his colleagues." McCafee, however is not a defendant in the case.
The plaintiffs claim they were fired with racial animus, while both Gonzalez and Faiban claim that their age was also a factor. They are seeking punitive damages for harassment, age and race discrimination and retaliation, as well as failure to prevent harassment.
As of late July 9, Target did release a statement saying “ It is never Target’s intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize. The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is. We strive at all times to be a place where our team and guests feel welcome, valued and respected. This document, which was used during conversations at one distribution center, was never part of any formal or company-wide training. We take accountability for its contents and are truly sorry.”
Generally, the term ‘Hispanic’ is understood to be an ethnic or linguistic marker rather than a racial term encompassing persons who identify with the Iberian Peninsula and/or the countries once ruled by Portugal and Spain. Such persons vary considerably in appearance, since the aboriginal peoples of the Americas hailed originally from Asia but became distinct from each other over millennia, and to that diversity was added the peoples coming from Africa and Europe as conquistadores, settlers, missionaries, and slaves.
In the United States, persons claiming Hispanic ancestry range from those who were native to Louisiana at the time the area was purchased from France during the Jefferson administration and the Southwest at the time of the Mexican American War and the subsequent annexation of the area, to Spaniards, Portuguese, and Latin Americans who came later on to seek political and economic freedom, such as Mexicans fleeing revolution, Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro, or Guatemalans and Salvadorans fleeing genocide. About half of the Hispanics or Latinos living in the United States chafe under the terms assigned to them by government and corporations. According to a Pew study, only 24% of Hispanics prefer a pan-ethnic label like Hispanic or Latino. A majority - 51% - prefer to use national identity.