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Zara’s former US lawyer sues brand in $40million gay discrimination case

Zara’s former US lawyer sues brand in $40million gay discrimination case

The former US in-house counsel for Zara Inc USA has launched a $40million (€35.5million) lawsuit against the company claiming that he was subject to a hostile work environment, pay discrimination and harassment due to his religion, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Ian Miller worked for the Spanish retail company from 2008 until he was fired in March this year.

He says in the suit that his firing came about after he raised concerns about discrimination.

Miller alleges in the suit, which was filed Wednesday in New York’s Supreme Court, that he was excluded from meetings, given lower salary raises than other staff and subjected to homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic remarks.

‘Zara overlooked Mr. Miller’s stellar performance, marginalized his role in the company, and gave him lower raises than employees who fit the company’s preferred profile’, said Miller’s attorney, David Sanford, of Sanford Heisler Kimpel, LLP, reports Reuters.

The suit suggests that the atmosphere within Zara’s corporate structure was set by Amancio Ortega, the CEO of parent company Inditex, and the fourth richest person in the world.

‘Mr. Miller is Jewish, American, and gay,’ states the suit. ‘Zara’s senior executives, including several close confidants of Zara’s founder Amancio Ortega, treated each characteristic as a strike against Mr. Miller.’

Miller alleges that Ortega protected senior executives who harassed him. He also says that executives openly exchanged racist emails – including photoshopped images of US President Barak Obama.

In one image, Obama is shown wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, while another depicted Michelle Obama serving up fried chicken.

He also says that he was emailed graphic images of gay sex scenes, and that executives discussed visiting prostitutes during work trips.

Miller says that one senior employee of the company sent a photo of a tattooed penis to his partner, Michael Mayberry, with a message saying he’d tried to convince Miller to also have his penis tattooed.

The lawsuit, which has been filed against Zara USA Inc, Miller’s former supervisor Dilip Patel and former Zara USA CEO Moises Costas Rodriguez, can be read here.

The suit gives several examples of the comments Miller received in connection with his sexuality.

One executive, ‘sent Mr. Miller an email highlighting language that marriage is an institution “sanctified between a man and a woman.”’

In another instance, the same executive sent Miller, ‘a news article about the marriage of gay fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi and instructed Mr. Miller to “put a ring on it.”’

The same executive: ‘frequently bragged to Mr. Miller about the size of his penis.’

Zara is the largest fashion retailer in the world, with 2,000 stores in 88 countries – including 53 in the United States and 7 in New York City.

The company has vigorously denied the claims and issued a statement yesterday saying that it is shocked by the suit and intends to fight the allegations.

‘Zara USA is a diverse and multicultural company that is part of a worldwide organization that has more than 140,000 employees of different nationalities, cultures, languages and beliefs across 88 countries.

‘We have a strong social commitment based on fairness, respect and equality for all. In keeping with our global success, we work hard to create exciting and rewarding work environments for each of our employees.

‘The allegations contained in a plaintiff’s press release today are shocking, and – although we have not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit – we will respond strongly and vigorously to these allegations in the Court.

‘We do not tolerate any behavior that is discriminatory or disrespectful, but value each individual’s contributions to our dynamic organization.’