A former employee has filed suit against Versace, citing state law violations, including unfair business practices, racial discrimination, and wrongful termination, among others, in connection with the Italian design house’s use of a secret “black code” to alert staff and security when a black shopper is in the store. According to Christopher Sampino’s complaint, which was filed last month in Alameda County Superior Court, a state court in California, he was discriminated against and fired for being of mixed race, after working two weeks at the Versace outlet store in Pleasanton, California.
Sampino alleges in his complaint that during the new-employee training, an unnamed manager informed him of the “D410 Code,” the code used for labeling black clothing, as well as for use “in a casual manner when a black person entered the store.” According to the suit, the manager explained to Sampino that the “code is used to alert co-workers that ‘a black person is in the store.’”
Mr. Sampino further alleges that he was harassed and subsequently terminated after informing the store manager that he is black. Per Sampino, despite having “met or exceeded expectations with regards to job performance,” he was fired after working two weeks in September because he did not “understand luxury” and did not “know the luxury life.” Versace “also told [Sampino] that he was being dismissed because he hasn’t ‘lived the luxury life.’ Defendants told [Sampino] to quit because ‘that would make the paperwork easier.'”
In his complaint, Sampino further asserts he was subjected to an array of labor violations, including not being paid for time worked, not receiving rest periods and being wrongfully terminated – all of which run afoul of California state law. He is seeking class action certification. If his proposed class action lawsuit is certified by the court, “similarly situated” individuals (aka employees who were subject to discriminatory treatment by Versace in the U.S. around the time Rose did) will be able to join in case at hand against the Italian brand and share in the settlement amount.
In order for a proposed class action lawsuit – one that gathers many individual claims together into a single lawsuit – to be certified, the named plaintiff – Sampino, here – must show that all of the potential class members have claims that raise common legal and factual issues, making it most efficient to deal with all of the claims together. In short: all of the plaintiffs must be “similarly-situated.”
Versace has denied Sampino’s claims in a subsequently filed response, and moved for summary judgment. The company also released the following statement: “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.”
* The case is Christopher Sampino v. Versace USA, Inc., 4:16-cv-07198 (N.D.Cal.).