Posted on July 10, 2013

Target’s Offensive Document Telling Managers How to Speak to Hispanic Employees Leads to Lawsuit from Three Former Employees

Daily Mail (London), July 10, 2013

Three former Target employees are suing the retail chain for racial discrimination.

The employees cited an offensive document Target reportedly distributed to managers with reminders that not all Hispanic people eat tacos and burritos, dance to salsa or wear sombreros.

The lawsuit, filed in California, states that the three former warehouse workers were victims of discrimination on the job, and that Target’s ‘Multi-Cultural Tips’ for managers were alone offensive, Courthouse News reported.

The Minnesota-based retail chain 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, according to the complaint.

Those ‘tips’ touched on several Hispanic stereotypes, including food and dress, as well as a reference to Mexicans being of a ‘lower education level,’ the lawsuit states.

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.’

The former Target workers, Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, also allege that their supervisors were nearly all Caucasians who regularly used racial slurs when talking to Hispanic employees, including ‘Only a “wetback” can work this hard.’

Gonzalez says that after he went to the human resources office to report the problem, his supervisors retaliated, and he and Fabian and Garcia-Ayala were later fired, according to the lawsuit.

A Target spokeswoman released a statement saying, ‘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.

‘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.’

Target recently stepped up its marketing to Hispanics, the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., one that the retailer considers vital customers, the Huffington Post noted.

Target’s CEO Gregg Steinhafel told MPR News in May, ‘We are going to source dominant presentations of Latino and Hispanic merchandise through the entire store. It’s a big effort that we have internally to really stretch ourselves and jump way out in front.’