If you’re a huge fan of shopping at Zara, the Spanish fast-fashion franchise, you may want to start spending your money elsewhere.
The fashion brand has been outed for its deeply engrained racist hiring and customer service practices in a recent survey conducted by the Center for Popular Democracy, a racial, economic and labor justice group. A random sample of two hundred-fifty one out of Zara’s 1,500 Manhattan employees participated in the survey and confided that Black customers are profiled as potential thieves seven times more frequently than white shoppers.
The study, entitled “Stitched with Prejudice: Zara USA’s Corporate Culture of Favoritism” and written by Chaya Crowder, also revealed that Black customers were also more frequently denied exchanges and returns than Whites. Customers weren’t the only people that were racially discriminated in Zara’s stores. Black employees claimed that they were given dissatisfactory hour assignments and stricter surveillance from managers.
“It’s kind of weird to me how they can make millions of dollars but are not able to pay people properly for their time, let alone give people the amount of time that they need in order to support their family, in order to keep a roof over their head, in order to, you know, just feed themselves.” One employee said:
The study had also found that darker-skinned employees were also less likely to promoted to managing roles and were often given less-prestigious roles. Sixty-eight percent of employees that were assigned roles in the back of the store and away from the public had darker complexions. Managers were generally white, and generally gave preferential treatment or were less lenient to subordinates of the same races and ethnic groups. The extent to which Black employees were profiled in their own work environment were sometimes highly disturbing, as portrayed in this incident:
“[O]ne Black employee even detailed an instance in which he had come in a hooded jacket to pick up his check. A sales associate not only identified him as a special order, but he was physically stopped as he was walking into the back office, where checks are kept.”
The study’s findings are not particularly surprising, given Zara’s history of being infamous for racial bias in the brand’s various operations. Just earlier this month, the franchised was served with a $40 million lawsuit from a former worker citing discrimination, unlawful discharge, retaliation and a hostile work environment. The brand also received bad press last year for racist images on its merchandise: pajamas featuring swastikas, a necklace with blackface designs, shirts with gold stars resembling those worn by the Jewish people once held in concentration camps in the Holocaust and a shirt with the words printed saying, “White is the New Black.”
According to Forbes, Zara featured the following statement:
“Zara USA vehemently refutes the findings of the Center for Popular Democracy report which was published without any attempt to contact the company. The baseless report was prepared with ulterior motives and not because of any actual discrimination or mistreatment. It makes assertions that cannot be supported and do not reflect Zara’s diverse workforce.
“Zara USA believes that the report is completely inconsistent with the company’s true culture and the experiences of the over 1,500 Zara employees in New York City. We are an equal opportunity employer, and if there are individuals who are not satisfied with any aspect of their employment, we have multiple avenues for them to raise issues that we would immediately investigate and address.
“Approximately half of all Zara USA employees are Hispanic or African American. In the most recent round of internal promotions at Zara USA, approximately half were Hispanic or African American employees. In addition, approximately half of all hours are regularly allocated to Hispanic or African American employees. These facts clearly demonstrate that diversity and equal opportunity are two of the company’s core values. We are a global multicultural company serving valued customers across 88 countries, and do not tolerate discrimination of any form.”
Welp. I know Zara won’t be seeing my money again anytime soon. It’s a shame, their pencil skirts fit me in all the right places…