Written by Aviva Shen
Three Target employees are suing the retail company over an offensive guide for warehouse managers on how to deal with Hispanic workers. According to the lawsuit filed in Yolo County, California, Target’s “multi-cultural tips” teach predominantly Caucasian managers that not all Hispanic employees are cultural stereotypes who eat tacos and like salsa music. The document also claims that Cubans are more educated and more likely to be legal immigrants than Mexican employees:
a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say ‘OK, OK’ and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.
The plaintiffs, Robert Gonzalez, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, charge that the managers, who are nearly all white, are often openly racist and abusive. Managers allegedly said things like “Only a ‘wetback’ can work this hard,” and “You got to be Mexican to work like this,” and “What the hell, I’m already sweating like a Mexican.” Gonzalez says he complained to human resources, only to be punished with his supervisor’s more concerted efforts to humiliate and demean him using racial epithets. All three employees claim they were fired because of their race.
The tales of abuse, while not proven, fit with the exploitation and abuse immigrant workers regularly endure in low-wage jobs. Many of the nation’s largest companies will hire undocumented workers and then threaten them with deportation if they speak out against poor conditions, harassment and wage theft. In turn, legal immigrants and other workers are told they must endure these same abuses or lose their jobs.
Meanwhile, Target is working hard to capture the Latino consumer market through Spanish-language ads and bilingual signs in stores.
Setting aside the accusations of racism, Target’s track record on employee treatment is lacking. In May 2012, the National Labor Relations Board found the company guilty of intimidating workers who tried to form a union. The company was also cited last year for maintaining illegal work rules designed to keep workers from speaking out.
UPDATE: Target confirmed to the Huffington Post that the document was indeed being used at a company distribution center. Though it was not part of any “formal or company-wide training,” the company holds itself responsible, saying: “It is never Target’s intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize.”
This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.
Photo by Sarah Gilbert