Ex-employee of Versace alleges it used codes for black shoppers

An ex-employee of the luxury fashion company, Versace, in the United States, is reportedly alleging that the fashion retailer dismissed him only two weeks after being hired on the grounds that he was black.

The Claimant alleges that employees of the company were given instructions to use a code word to alert staff when a black shopper would enter the store. The Claimant claims that, upon receiving the instructions, he confronted his manager and stated: “You know that I’m African-American?” The former employee claimed that he was treated differently and excluded from training sessions.

Under the Equality Act 2010, race is one of the nine protected characteristics. Race includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins.

It should be noted that the Equality Act 2010 also applies to service providers and not just employers. A service provider is any person who provides services, goods or facilities to members of the public. Members of the public who access goods, services or facilities are protected from being discriminated on the basis of a protected characteristic. As such, if the acts that were alleged by the former employee of Versace, were proven, black customers may have a case under the Equality Act 2010. A recent example of the Equality Act 2010 being used in this way is in the case of FirstGroup Plc v Paulley [2017] where a wheelchair user successfully made a claim for FirstGroup PLC’s failure to make reasonable adjustments. The Supreme Court in this case held that bus drivers must require a non-disabled passenger occupying a wheelchair space to move from that space if a wheelchair user needed it.

Dominic Bonham