Suit: Versace used secret ‘code’ for black customers
(CNN) — A former Versace employee is suing the company for unfair business practices, and one of the allegations in his lawsuit is that the luxury fashion label uses a secret “code” to alert employees when a black customer enters the store.
Christopher Sampiro, 23, says he was fired for being of mixed race, after working two weeks at the Versace outlet store in Pleasanton, California.
Sampiro alleges that during the new-employee training, a manager asked him if he knew about the “D410 Code” — the same code used for black clothing. The manager’s name is not mentioned in the lawsuit, which was filed in November, six weeks after the alleged exchange.
The manager instructed Sampiro “to say ‘D410’ in a casual manner when a black person entered the store,” according to the lawsuit. The manager explained the “code is used to alert co-workers that ‘a black person is in the store,'” the lawsuit said.
Sampiro responded by asking the manager, “You know that I’m African American?” In the lawsuit, Sampiro self-identifies as one-quarter African American.
After this response, Sampiro claimed the store’s management treated him differently and did not give him “legitimate” training.
Sampiro was fired after working two weeks in September because he didn’t “understand luxury” and didn’t “know the luxury life,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also alleges Sampiro was not paid for time worked, did not receive rest periods and was wrongfully terminated.
In court documents filed with Alameda County Superior Court, Versace denied Sampiro’s allegations and asked a judge to dismiss the case.
CNN received a statement from the company affirming their commitment to equality.
“Versace believes strongly in equal opportunity, as an employer and a retailer. We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws. We have denied the allegations in this suit, and we will not comment further concerning pending litigation,” said the statement.
A case status conference is scheduled for March 21.