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Saks Fifth Avenue Accused of Preferring Younger and White Workforce In Race, Age Discrimination Lawsuit

NEW YORK (AP) — Eight former employees at the Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store filed a race and age discrimination lawsuit Tuesday against the high-end store and its corporate parent, alleging they were subjected to a hostile work environment and unfairly fired.

The suit, filed in New York, said the men “were each forced to endure a pervasive pattern of discrimination and retaliation … their respective managers deliberately targeted them because of their race and/or age.”

Longley, Orozco, Bisky, Taylor, McCray, Blocker, Sells, Correa

Six of eight plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Saks Fifth Avenue department store, from left, Derick Longley, Pablo Orozco, Thomas Bisky, and Kenneth Taylor, third from right, Nixson McCray, second from right, William Charles Blocker, right, and their lawyers Derek Sells, fourth from right, and Stephanie Correa, fourth from left, hold a press conference, Tuesday Nov. 20, 2018, in New York.  (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Attorney Derek Sells said managers for the four black, two white and two Hispanic men engaged in a range of actions including making it difficult to get customers from store foot traffic, using abusive language, not allowing promotions to happen, and letting younger, white colleagues get away with harassing behavior, all with the intention of moving toward a younger, whiter workforce.

Some of the plaintiffs said that even when they made sales targets, managers would find other metrics to evaluate them poorly.

Saks’ parent organization, Hudson’s Bay Co., declined to comment on the litigation but said “we take these allegations seriously as we are committed to diversity and inclusion across our organization.”

Some of the plaintiffs had worked at the store for several years, Sells said, and the atmosphere changed to become more hostile after Hudson Bay’s acquired Saks in 2013.

An example, he said, was the computer system used to register customers’ information. The men in the suit claim the system was faulty and would generate error messages when they tried to input information, and they made repeated complaints to their managers without anything getting fixed.

Sells said the men would then be evaluated poorly for not registering enough customers, while younger, white employees were either helped with workarounds for the problem or not evaluated the same way.

Thomas Bisky, 68, one of the two white plaintiffs, and who had been working for Saks since 2011, said he had been told in fall 2017 that he had been having his best sales quarter yet but was still given a warning for not registering enough customers. He said he received no support to fix the error message problem despite making repeated complaints, and was terminated in January.

“It was quite clear to me that they wanted to get me out of there because I was of a certain age,” he said.

The suit seeks monetary damages.

In 2015, Saks settled with a former saleswoman in Texas, who said she had been discriminated against because she was transgender.

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