News & Politics

Sunglass Hut Policy: 'Hire White Beauty People,' Lawsuit Says

"Black and Hispanic employees are not a good look for the store."

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Pavolo Venezia worked for Sunglass Hut for 18 mostly happy years, most recently at its store on tony Spring Street in New York City's SoHo. It was there that he got a new boss, Debbie Gidiull, who made his life miserable, Venezia claims in a lawsuit against Sunglass Hut LLC and parent company Luxottica Retail North America reported in today's Courthouse News. Under the new boss, the company "revamped the face of its most popular store by getting rid of older employees, and black and Hispanic employees," the lawsuit states. The directive, Venezia alleges, was "to hire white beauty people," because "Black and Hispanic employees are not a good look for the store."

Venezia disagreed with those policies, and so inevitably friction arose between him and and Gidiull.

According to Courthouse News:

The complaint continues: "At some point during the year of 2010, Mr. Venezia was approached by high level members of the defendant who verbally reprimanded plaintiff for plaintiff's failure to conform to previously given directive to lessen the amount of black and Hispanic employees. Plaintiff was reminded that black and Hispanic employees did not properly represent the customers who shopped at the SoHo stores and thus said employees were not a good look for the store.

"Additionally, plaintiff was instructed to hire white beauty people for the store."

Venezia claims he continued to hire black and Hispanic employees anyway, so the bosses took away his power to hire people, wrote him up for it, and eventually fired him for it.
Along the way, he says, his regional manager rejected all six candidates he suggested for the assistant manager's job, "based solely on said candidates being minority."

Venezia is suing for wrongful termination and human rights violations, and says he was fired while on a leave he was forced to take due to the stress of the having to work under such wrongful (and illegal) policies. He is seeking punitive damages.