(Reuters) - A former attorney for Spanish fashion chain Zara filed a $40 million lawsuit on Wednesday claiming he was harassed and ultimately fired for being Jewish, American and gay.
The lawsuit, filed in New York state court in Manhattan, says Ian Miller, who was general counsel for Zara USA Inc from 2008 until this March, was excluded from meetings, given smaller raises than co-workers and subjected to racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic remarks.
Miller also claims the senior executives who harassed him were insulated from punishment by Amancio Ortega Gaona, the company’s founder and the second richest person in the world.
Miller was fired earlier this year after raising concerns about discrimination, the suit says.
“Zara overlooked Mr. Miller’s stellar performance, marginalized his role in the company, and gave him lower raises than employees who fit the company’s preferred profile” of Christian, Spanish and straight, said Miller’s attorney, David Sanford.
Zara’s parent company, Inditex SA (ITX.MC), the largest fashion retailer in the world, said in a statement that it was shocked by the claims and would fight them.
“We do not tolerate any behavior that is discriminatory or disrespectful, but value each individual’s contributions to our dynamic organization,” the company said.
Miller sued the company, his former supervisor Dilip Patel and former Zara USA CEO Moises Costas Rodriguez under various New York state and city laws prohibiting pay discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation and hostile work environments.
Zara was founded in 1975 and operates more than 2,000 stores in 88 countries, according to its website. Last summer, the company issued a public apology in response to an uproar over a T-shirt it offered that resembled a Nazi concentration camp uniform, including a yellow six-pointed star the company said was supposed to be a sheriff’s badge.
In 2005, the company pulled a line of handbags with swastikas on them that it said came from a supplier in India, where the notorious symbol has religious significance. The company also has been criticized for selling necklaces with figurines in black face and T-shirts that read “white is the new black.”
The case is Miller v. Zara USA Inc, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 155512/2015.
Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, N.Y.; editing by G Crosse and Christian Plumb