Employee Accuses Tiffany & Co. of Racial Discrimination

The plaintiff's complaint alleges that the jewelry retailer believes that African-Americans are not appropriate ambassadors for the iconic brand.

Posted: 06/02/2014 03:00 PM EDT

A recent lawsuit launched against Tiffany & Co. has accused the jewelry retailer of a “systemic, nationwide pattern and practice of racial discrimination.”

Michael McClure, the lawsuit’s plaintiff, has worked at Tiffany since 1993 and currently serves as a group director, an employee responsible for multiple stores. McClure pointed to the fact that, of the more than 200 management positions that represent Tiffany to the public, he is the only African-American staffer. 

According to the complaint, McClure had received consistently positive performance reviews until last spring, after the company’s new senior vice president for North America requested that store and group directors send in photographs of themselves. 

The complaint states that despite having increased sales at two of his stores in the past two years, he was denied an annual bonus, received a negative performance review and placed on warning for termination. 

McClure’s lawyer, Robert D. Kraus, told The New York Times that Tiffany’s hiring pattern and his client’s work experience proves “racial bias in the belief, conscious or otherwise, that African-Americans are not appropriate ambassadors for the iconic, luxurious and sophisticated Tiffany brand.”

An anonymous interoffice tip that McClure received in May also alleged that shortly after the new senior vice president visited McClure’s market, he expressed a surprise that "a black man is representing the Tiffany brand." 

Tiffany rejected these claims in a statement.

“The lawsuit allegations are completely without merit, and the many mischaracterizations will be addressed through the legal process,” a Tiffany spokesman reportedly said. “We welcome and value diversity in all forms and emphasize personal accountability and professionalism in a respectful and fair work environment.”

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 (Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Tiffany & Co.)

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