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California Target employees sue for discrimination, harassment

Three former Sacramento area employees of Target have filed a lawsuit against the retail giant, charging harassment, discrimination, and retaliation for complaining about the offensive treatment. Their charges paint a picture of racial insensitivity and harassment against Hispanic employees by the company and its managers.

One of the key elements in the suit is a document distributed by Target that provided "multi-cultural tips" to distribution warehouse managers for dealing with Hispanic employees. The document noted that not all Hispanic employees eat tacos and burritos, dance to salsa music, or wear sombreros. It also made broad and insensitive differentiations between Mexicans and Cubans. It stated that Mexicans were less educated and possibly undocumented, while Cubans could be political refugees, although legal and with a higher education level. The "tips" also cautioned that employees may indicate that they understand something when they do not.

Beyond this document, the plaintiffs allege that managers (nearly all of whom were Caucasian) regularly addressed Hispanic employees using racial slurs, even if the comment was seemingly meant to compliment an employee's work ethic. One of the men says that the verbal harassment from his manager only worsened after he went to human resources. Beyond that, he says his manager would throw boxes on the ground and order him to pick them up in an effort to embarrass him.

The three men allege that they were fired because of their race, while two of them (who are 58) also charge that their dismissal was in part because of their age. The suit, which is against the company and unnamed defendants, seeks damages for harassment, failure to prevent harassment, age and race discrimination, and retaliation.

Language and actions that disparage an employee's race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability are not acceptable in the workplace, nor is retaliating against an employee for reporting such activity. However, it continues in businesses throughout the country every day. It is essential that anyone who has suffered discrimination, either while on the job, or in their termination, seek the representation of an attorney who specializes in employment law.

Courthouse News Service, "Workers Outraged at Target's 'Cultural Tips'" Elizabeth Warmerdam, Jul. 08, 2013

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