Target Says Sorry for 'Multi-Cultural' Tips Used in Northern Calif. Warehouse

Target apologizes for describing "differences among Hispanic employees".

ByABC News
July 10, 2013, 8:08 AM
Target apologized for a document that described "Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips."
Target apologized for a document that described "Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips."
Bloomberg/Getty Images

July 10, 2013 — -- After three Target employees sued the company for discrimination, including the distribution of "multi-cultural tips" noting the "differences among Hispanic employees," the company says it never meant to offend.

The three employees who filed suit, Robert Gonzalez, 58, Bulmaro Fabian, 58, and Pedro Garcia-Ayala, 36, worked at a Target Distribution Warehouse in Woodland, Calif., about 15 miles northwest of Sacramento. The three men are of Mexican descent, according to the lawsuit, and were employed as warehouse workers "in manual labor positions, while Caucasian employees held nearly all management positions."

Ilija Cvetich, the attorney for the plaintiffs, declined to comment on behalf of his clients.

The three men seek unspecified punitive damages for harassment, failure to prevent harassment, age and race discrimination and retaliation.

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According to the suit, "The Caucasian Target managers regularly used racial slurs while addressing plaintiffs and other Hispanic employees on the warehouse floor, including, but not limited to:

"You got to be Mexican to work like this."

"What the hell, I'm already sweating like a Mexican."

"Only a Mexican can work this hard," and

"Only a 'wet-back' can work this hard."

They also allege the company provided its distribution warehouse managers with a four-page document that describes "demographics of the Hispanic community" and their "cultural differences," according to an exhibit in the lawsuit.

A spokeswoman for Target, provided a statement to ABC News, stating, "It is never Target's intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize. The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is. We strive at all times to be a place where our team and guests feel welcome, valued and respected. This document, which was used during conversations at one distribution center, was never part of any formal or company-wide training. We take accountability for its contents and are truly sorry."

The spokeswoman said the company has not yet been served with the complaint and could not comment on it directly.

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The exhibit shown in the lawsuit states: "There are many cultural, behavioral and attitudinal differences between Hispanics of different countries of origin."

"Language use and accents: Spain vs. Latin American; Caribbean vs. Argentinean.

Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos.

Music: not everyone dances to salsa; there are more music styles than mariachi.

Lifestyle: not everyone lives in small, rural communities.

Values: different beliefs

Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero."

The document also described "intra-cultural differences" by stating, "Besides these differences, we need to be aware of clashes and rivalries among Hispanics of different origins. Not all Hispanic groups are alike and not all Hispanic groups get along well."

The document in the lawsuit also gives tips to "communicate cross-culturally" and stated: "Communicating with someone from another culture goes beyond the words and the language. Understand who you are communicating with."

"Their verbal and on-verbal (sic) mannerisms, social tendencies and cultural idiosyncrasies, rather than just trying to substitute words in your language with words in another.

"Cultural idiosyncrasies: Meaning of time, being on time, embarrassed to 'perform' in front of the group.

People do not always say what they are thinking or mean what they say; you have to read between the lines."