Tiffany & Co. Sued for Racial Bias

An employee filed a lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court, accusing the luxury jewelry retailer of racial discrimination.

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Tiffany & Co.’s flagship store, November 29, 2011, in New York City.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

An employee at Tiffany & Co. has slammed the coveted luxury jewelry retailer with a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Manhattan, accusing it of trying to get rid of him because he’s a black man, the New York Times reports.

Michael McClure is a group director for Tiffany and, according to his suit, he accuses the company of a "systematic, nationwide pattern and practice of racial discrimination," the Times reports.

As a group director, McClure is in charge of more than one store. But according to his complaint, he is the only African American, out of the more than 200 positions that range from executive officers to store directors, who holds a management position that represents Tiffany to the public.

According to the suit as reported by the Times, McClure had been working for Tiffany for over a decade and had consistently received positive reviews for his performance until last fall when management changes were made. That's when, the suit contends, the new senior vice president for North America at the time, Anthony Ledru, asked store and group directors to send him photographs of themselves for his travel purposes.

The following spring, McClure claims he got a negative review, and was even placed on warning, with the threat of being fired hanging over his head. According to the Times, the lawsuit also claims that even though sales at one of his stores rocketed by 15 percent, and sales at another bumped up by 1 percent, he was denied a bonus, an action that showed an "apparent agenda to get rid of him from the start and racial bias at Tiffany," the lawsuit reads.

So McClure hired a lawyer. Tiffany did start two internal investigations, and in May, according to the suit, he received an anonymous tip in an interoffice envelope, claiming that Ledru had "expressed a surprise that 'a black man is representing the Tiffany brand.'"

The company is showing "racial bias in the belief, conscious or otherwise, that African Americans are not appropriate ambassadors for the iconic, luxurious and sophisticated Tiffany brand," McClure's lawyer, Robert Kraus, told the Times.

Tiffany, for its part, has denied all the claims, calling the allegations "without merit."

"We welcome and value diversity in all forms and emphasize personal accountability and professionalism in a respectful and fair work environment," the company said in a statement.

Read more at the New York Times.