A former employee of the U.S. unit of Spanish clothing and accessories retailer Zara has filed a discrimination lawsuit in a New York court seeking more than $40 million in damages.
Ian Jack Miller, the former general counsel of Zara USA, the flagship brand for the world's largest fashion retailer, Inditex Group, says in the lawsuit, filed Wednesday, that he was fired in March because he is "Jewish, American, and gay."
"Mr. Miller is seeking damages totaling more than $40 million for a hostile work environment, pay discrimination, and discriminatory and retaliatory termination," a spokesman for the plaintiff's law firm told Efe.
Top executives and confidants of Amancio Ortega Goana, the company's founder and majority shareholder, harassed Mr. Miller by, among other things, emailing graphic pornography, Miller alleges.
When Zara USA's top executives learned that Miller was Jewish, he was shut out of meetings, annual increases to his salary and bonus dropped sharply, and ultimately he was "unceremoniously" fired after seven years of service, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit is not directed at Ortega, but it says that some of the executives who harassed him were "installed personally" by the company founder and were shielded from punishment because of their close ties to him.
The lawsuit names Zara USA; its country manager, Dilip Patel; and its former chief executive officer, Moises Costas, as defendants, according to a copy of the suit obtained by Efe.
Miller also said Zara USA's top executives "regularly" exchanged racist e-mails, including ones portraying Michelle Obama serving fried chicken and emails depicting Barack Obama in a Ku Klux Klan hood and with a Confederate flag.
The suit also says that Miller did not speak about his Jewish background for years due to "open anti-Semitism" within the company, which came under fire for selling handbags bearing swastikas in 2007 and for coming out with striped pajamas that resembled concentration camp uniforms last year.
In a statement sent to Efe, Zara USA said the accusations by its former employee are "shocking" and that it will vigorously defend itself in court.
"We do not tolerate any discriminatory or disrespectful behavior and we value the contributions of each individual to our dynamic organization," the company said in the statement.