Four Black Women File Lawsuit Against Furniture Chain
Z Gallerie, the luxury home furnishing chain store, calls itself the style authority for the fashion-forward home. But when it comes to its Black employees working at its Berkeley store, they call it a work environment that’s home to discrimination and retaliation against them , if they complain or bring awareness of mistreatment to management.
In a lawsuit filed against Z Gallerie by four African-American women who were former employees at they store, they all claim they experienced racial discrimination in the form of lack of promotion, disparate treatment and unlawful termination.
“Z Gallerie put them in a Catch-22 situation, putting the women in a situation where they were forced to resign or get terminated,”said Waukeen McCoy with the McCoy Law Firm that’s representing the plaintiffs. “I have seen race discrimination cases before, but this is one of the more extensive ones.”
Tanisha Alston, Camille Goode, Shelita Harper and Mikala Jackson are the plaintiffs suing the retail giant. They all worked at the Berkeley Z Gallerie store, located at 1700 4th St.
The lawsuit states that job opportunities at the store were not advertised to the Black plaintiffs and other people from outside the store were hired, even though the Black plaintiffs were interested in the promotions. Or the jobs from Z gallerie were advertised, but the Black plaintiffs, with more experience on the job and in sales, weren’t allowed to interview for the openings.
In one incident, Alston, who was the assistant manager at the store, was working as the acting manager, as the previous manager left the store. Without giving her a chance to apply for the managing position, Z Gallerie hired a store manager who was white. Alston had to eventually teach and train him on the duties of a store manager.
“These Black women, had a wealth of experience in retail and one in particular, was qualified enough to run a store,” continued McCoy “But time after time, they were passed over for promotion, by less qualified white employees.”
In another incident a Black employee was called “ghetto” by a white employee. In another incident Harper, who was hired as a sales associate, was told by a white manager that the Black employee that trained her, would never be a manager at the store. When this Black employee resigned later, two white employees gave each other high-fives, celebrating his resignation, in front of Harper.
The lawsuit details instances when Human Resources for Z Gallerie were notified about the problems at the store by management. Instead of being reprimanded, managers who harassed the black staff were often promoted.
When the plaintiffs felt they were being mistreated and they complained to Human Resources, they said their work hours were cut by the management. The lawsuit also states that the Black plaintiff were being asked by Z Gallerie managers to profile Black customers who came into the store. Making sure that Black patrons at the store didn’t steal and double-checking identificaiton if charges were made with credit cards were some of the tactics used. Charges of racial insensitivity at Z Gallerie are not new. In Dallas, Texas, in March of 2016, a celebrity financial adviser Arnitra Johnson-Hall was at a Z Gallerie store trying to buy a gift card at the store.
Even through the purchase was approved by her credit card, she left the store after a white store manager called the store security hotline on her. She wrote about it on her Facebook page, and the incident went viral prompting a response from Z Gallerie.
Z Gallerie responded by stating that, “discrimination, in any form is not in line with our company culture or values.” Calls to Z Gallerie’s corporate office in Los Angeles were placed, regarding the issues at the Berkeley location. They didn’t respond by press time.
McCoy said that he tried to get the issues resolved with the corporate offices in Berkeley and the national location in Los Angeles.
“We actually tried to resolve this with Z Gallerie,” continued McCoy. “We were ignored and that’s why we decided to file this lawsuit. Usually a company will respond, but it’s telling they didn’t.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Superiors Court of California in Alameda County. While Z Gallerie is headquartered in Los Angeles, the Berkeley store, is one of the flagship stores on the West Coast. The lawsuit is asking for general damages, as well as special and punitive damages for all the plaintiffs.