Zara is once again in trouble with the Jewish community, this time for antisemitic and homophobic discrimination. A former member of Zara’s legal team, Ian Jack Miller, says that he was dismissed from his position as a corporate attorney in March for the retailer’s U.S. and Canada region because he is gay and Jewish.
Miller, who started working at the company in 2008, says he was harassed by high-level Zara employees who taunted him by emailing him gay porn and making shady references to his sexuality. “For example, Defendant Costas sent Mr. Miller an email highlighting language that marriage is an institution ‘sanctified between a man and a woman,’” the suit reads. “In another instance, Defendant Costas sent Mr. Miller an email drawing his attention to a ‘gay sex scene’ in a video game. Defendant Costas also sent Mr. Miller an email with a photo depicting a shirtless man. In yet another instance, Defendant Costas sent Mr. Miller a news article about the marriage of gay fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and instructed Mr. Miller to ‘put a ring on it.'”
Miller says that antisemitism is the status quo at Zara, so much so that he decided to keep the fact that he was Jewish to himself. He says that when the retailer’s higher-ups found out that he was Jewish, the discrimination intensified. The suit claims that as an institution, Zara favors heterosexual Christian Spaniards and people of other races, ethnicities and sexualities are disparaged. Miller claims he was given lower raises than other employees who fit the bill for Zara’s ideal demographics and had to endure listening to bigoted remarks from upper-level executives during his time at the company.
The suit also says that the discrimination didn’t stop at gays and Jews, and that senior staff “exchanged racist emails, including emails portraying Michelle Obama serving fried chicken and emails depicting Barack Obama in a Ku Klux Klan hood, with a Confederate flag, on a Cream of Wheat box, on an Aunt Jemima box, and shining shoes.”
Miller is seeking $40 million in damages for his treatment at the company. Zara released a statement reassuring the public of its inclusivity and friendliness to minorities, feigning surprise at the allegations. “We do not tolerate any behavior that is discriminatory or disrespectful, but value each individual’s contributions to our dynamic organization,” they said in a statement.
Given Zara’s history of antisemitism, it isn’t too much of a surprise that the retailer would be at the center of such a controversy. The lawsuit mentions Zara’s history of bigotry, namely in peddling wares that have offended the Jewish community and others on more than one occasion. “The Company is notorious for selling products featuring racist and anti-Semitic images and messages, including handbags depicting swastikas, children’s pajamas resembling concentration camp uniforms (a product that, after an international outcry, the Company said would be ‘exterminated’), necklaces containing figurines in black face, and a tee-shirt proclaiming that ‘White Is the New Black.'”