Ian Jack Miller, a lawyer who worked for Zara as general counsel in the U.S. and Canada, alleges that the company fired him because he is Jewish, American and gay, and that its top executives are openly anti-Semitic and racist. The suit names Zara USA, its country manager, Dilip Patel and former CEO Moises Costas as defendants.
“Mr. Miller was not a member of Zara’s favored demographic,” said Miller’s lawyer, David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP. “Because of Mr. Miller’s outsider status, we allege Zara overlooked Mr. Miller’s stellar performance, marginalized his role in the company, and gave him lower raises than employees who fit the company’s preferred profile. The campaign of discrimination culminated with Zara’s discriminatory and retaliatory firing of Mr. Miller.”
Miller’s lawsuit alleges “top executives and confidants of Amancio Ortega harassed Mr. Miller by emailing graphic pornography, talking about penis size, bragging about sexual exploits with female subordinates and discussing visiting prostitutes during work trips. The lawsuit also describes how Zara’s top executives regularly exchanged racist emails, including emails portraying Michelle Obama serving fried chicken and emails depicting Barack Obama in a Ku Klux Klan hood, with a Confederate flag, on a Cream of Wheat box, on an Aunt Jemima box, and shining shoes.”
Zara has been accused of anti-Semitism before. In August 2014, the retailer apologized for selling striped shirts with yellow six-pointed star badges that resembled the uniforms that Nazis forced Jews to wear in concentration camps during WWII; the company pulled the shirt from its shelves and said that it was meant to look like a sheriff’s uniform from the American Old West. In 2007, Zara apologized for a handbag that featured a pattern of flowers and swastikas, saying that its supplier meant them to be Hindu religious symbols.
In 2014, Zara was criticized for selling a white T-shirt that said, “White is the New Black” – some read it as a racist comment, rather than a fashion statement. And in 2013, some consumers were outraged by a necklace that had faces painted black with red lips, drawing comparisons to old racist caricatures.
In a statement released to the press, Zara called the allegations “shocking,” and said it hadn’t yet seen the complaint. It added, “We have a strong social commitment based on fairness, respect and equality for all. […]We do not tolerate any behavior that is discriminatory or disrespectful, but value each individual’s contributions to our dynamic organization.”
Zara was founded by Ortega in 1975 in La Coruña, Spain; it opened its first U.S. store in New York in 1989. Parent company Inditex, which also owns the Pull&Bear and Massimo Dutti brands, operates more than 6,460 stores worldwide.