Ex-employee suing Versace says store had 'code' for black customers

Actress and singer Zendaya in a Versace campaign.
Actress and singer Zendaya in a Versace campaign.PHOTO: TWITTER/VERSACE

A former Versace employee who is suing the retailer claims that the  luxury fashion label uses a secret "code" to alert employees when a black customer enters the store.

Christopher Sampiro, 23, says in a 30-page lawsuit that managers of the San Francisco Bay Area store where he once worked used the word “D410” to casually let workers know that an African-American was in the store.

The code is also the brand’s label for a black shirt, according to a Huffington Post report.

Sampiro was hired by the store in September 2016.

He alleges that during the new-employee training, a manager asked him if he knew about the "D410 Code" -- the same code used for black clothing.

According to CNN, the manager's name is not mentioned in the lawsuit, which was filed in November, six weeks after the alleged exchange.

The manager instructed Sampiro "to say 'D410' in a casual manner when a black person entered the store," CNN reported the lawsuit as saying. The manager explained the "code is used to alert co-workers that 'a black person is in the store,'" the lawsuit said.

Sampiro responded by asking the manager, "You know that I'm African American?"

In the lawsuit, Sampiro self-identifies as one-quarter African American, says CNN.

After this response, Sampiro claimed the store's management treated him differently and did not give him "legitimate" training.

Sampiro was fired after working two weeks in September because he didn't "understand luxury" and didn't "know the luxury life," according to the lawsuit.

The suit also alleges Sampiro was not paid for time worked, did not receive rest periods and was wrongfully terminated.

In court documents filed with Alameda County Superior Court, Versace denied Sampiro's allegations and asked a judge to dismiss the case.

A case status conference is scheduled for March 21 (2017).

CNN says it called Versace's corporate office and its Pleasanton store, but calls were not returned.

However, Cosmopolitan magazine said it had obtained a statement via e-mail on Tuesday (Dec 27).

"Versace believes strongly in equal opportunity, as an employer and a retailer. We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws. We have denied the allegations in this suit, and we will not comment further concerning pending litigation."