Alexander McQueen Faces Racial Discrimination Lawsuit (Again)

Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images.
Last week, a discrimination lawsuit was filed against Alexander McQueen and the label's parent company, Kering, in New York state court. The cause of the suit: retail employee allegations of racial harassment and hostile workplace, racial discrimination, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It's the third complaint the luxury house's NYC outposts have faced in the past two years.

Christopher Policard and Duane Davis are the plaintiffs in a joint complaint filed on December 9 against the fashion house and Kering, in addition to four individual defendants (all supervisors or managers at Alexander McQueen). The lawsuit, which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, claims that the luxury retailer "systematically rejects African-American job applicants who seek positions on the sales floor where they can be seen by customers or positions where they might have authority over white employees, relegating the few African-Americans who are hired to menial positions behind the scenes." Policard and Davis are both African-American, and have been working at Alexander McQueen's 747 Madison Avenue location for one and two years, respectively (Policard as an inventory supervisor, and Davis as an inventory clerk), according to court documents.

Policard first alerted his supervisors about the discriminatory treatment he and Davis had experienced in a written complaint on September 17, 2015, according to the suit; when no actions were taken, the duo sent a second complaint on November 18. However, the plaintiffs claim that instead of addressing their complaints, the defendants subjected them to "a course of action designed to denigrate, punish and retaliate against them for making their complaint, intimidate them into withdrawing it or force them to leave the company," the court documents state. Some of the allegations include "being left out of important company meetings," "being falsely accused of theft without evidence" and "being invasively screened for theft in public," as well as being denied employee benefits, because of their race.

“I felt oppressed, rattled, and afraid for my future. I was surprised that such a prestigious brand would allow ignorance to infect and tarnish the brand image,” Policard told The NY Daily News.

This isn't the first time the high-end retailer's NYC locations have been embroiled in legal issues due to racism allegations. In July 2013, a security guard from the Central African nation of Gabon who'd worked at the brand's Meatpacking District location for two years filed a suit alleging that he had been subjected to persistent racist taunts that resulted in hospitalization for depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. (He also claimed that the offending employees ignored Black customers shopping at the store.) One of the managers named in Policard and Davis' suit was also named in the security guard's 2013 suit, according to The NY Daily News. A Hispanic saleswoman who'd spent over a decade working at McQueen's Upper East Side flagship filed a lawsuit in November 2013 claiming that her bosses had called her racial slurs like "Goya princess" and "burrito face."

"We take these allegations very seriously and are investigating, however, we don’t comment on current litigations," a representative for Alexander McQueen told Refinery29. Kering also counts Balenciaga, Gucci, and Stella McCartney in its portfolio, among other luxury brands.

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