Three former employees are suing Target for discrimination, citing a document the company distributed to managers with reminders that not all Hispanics eat tacos and burritos or wear sombreros.
The former warehouse workers' lawsuit, filed in California's Yolo County, claims they were victims of discrimination on the job, and that Target's "Multi-Cultural Tips" for managers were themselves offensive, according to Courthouse News.
According to the complaint, Target gave its distribution warehouse managers a document entitled, "Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips," which featured suggestions on how to manage Hispanic employees. The tips addressed variety of Hispanic stereotypes, from music to food to clothing.
The document stated the following, according to the lawsuit:
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.
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The three workers, Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, also claim in the suit that their supervisors were nearly all Caucasians who frequently used racial slurs when talking to Hispanic employees. Gonzalez says that when he went to human resources to report the problem, his bosses retaliated, and he and Fabian and Garcia-Ayala were eventually fired.
Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, declined to comment on the lawsuit saying the company hadn't yet received it. Snyder said the retailer is "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," she said.
In response to news of the complaint, LATISM, a national nonprofit organization based in D.C., questioned whether Target's actions were racist.
"It’s very disturbing to think that a company which has a pretty good public persona might have such an ugly private face," the organization wrote in a blog post.
Target recently ramped up its marketing to the Hispanics, whom the retailer considers critical customers as the biggest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S.
"We are going to source dominant presentations of Latino and Hispanic merchandise through the entire store," Target chief executive officer Gregg Steinhafel told MPR News in May. "It's a big effort that we have internally to really stretch ourselves and jump way out in front."
UPDATE: July 10, 12:15 a.m. -- Statement from Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder:
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.