Tiffany & Co. is being sued for alleged racial discrimination by an employee who claims that he is the only African-American at Tiffany in a management position.
Michael McClure, a senior manager and employee at Tiffany for over two decades, claims that his long string of positive performance reviews came to an end after he was asked to send a new senior vice president his picture. According to The New York Times, this spring McClure received a warning for termination, despite positive numbers associated with his stores.
What is Tiffany being accused of, and how can other businesses avoid similar legal trouble?
- Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult an experienced business attorney to discuss your options.
And I Said / What About / Racial Bias at Tiffany...
McClure's lawsuit charges Tiffany with carrying a racial bias against African-Americans, allegedly demonstrating the company's belief that he and others like him are not "appropriate ambassadors" for the brand.
Tiffany employs McClure as a group director, a manager who's responsible for one than one store and who has "extensive market travels." The Times reports that after McClure began exploring his legal options, he received an anonymous letter stating that new senior VP Anthony Ledru was surprised that "a black man is representing the Tiffany brand."
This may not be a surprise to most employers, but the practices that McClure is alleging are illegal. Employers cannot and should not fire or discipline employees because of their race, which is exactly what McClure has claimed. Racial discrimination can arise in the form of harassment, negative job consequences, or even a hiring practice which sidesteps diversity.
For its part, Tiffany denies the merits of McClure's suit, claiming the company "welcome[s] and value[s] diversity in all forms."
Tips for Avoiding Racial Discrimination Suits
Don't want your business to be publicly accused of harboring racial biases? Make sure to:
- Have an anti-discrimination policy. Don't just state that your business is an "equal opportunity employer," and educate your employees on racial harassment and how offenders will be disciplined.
- Respond appropriately to complaints. Racial and sexual harassment complaints need to be taken very seriously. Whatever you do, don't discipline an employee just for making a complaint.
- Investigate and minimize potential liability. It's very possible to minimize your company's liability for racial discrimination at work, but only if you properly investigate and document the incidents.
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