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MSNBC TV
updated 7/10/2013 9:46:14 PM ET 2013-07-11T01:46:14

Three Hispanic former employees of Target are suing the national retailer over an in-house memo of “Multi-Cultural Tips” that they say perpetuated ethnic stereotypes.

Three Hispanic former employees of Target are suing the retail company for harassment and discrimination based on a training document with “multi-cultural” tips for managers that not all Hispanics eat tacos and burritos, dance salsa, or wear sombreros.

Distributed to warehouse managers, the guide was provided to remind employees of the need to be culturally sensitive in the workplace. It offered tips to better manage Hispanic employees.

According to the lawsuit filed by the three former employees in Yolo County, Calif., the in-house memo aims to dispel cultural stereotypes–while reinforcing stereotypes of different Latino groups.

Titled, “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips,” the document–according to the complaint–states the following on Hispanic employees:

a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;

b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;

c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;

d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);

e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and

f. They may say ‘OK, OK’ and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.

Robert Gonzales, Bulmaro Fabian and Pedro Garcia-Ayala have issued a complaint that nearly all the management positions were held by Caucasians who regularly targeted Hispanics and used racially charged language when addressing Hispanic employees. In the lawsuit, the three plaintiffs charge the managers with saying things like, “Only a ‘wetback’ can work this hard,” “You got to be Mexican to work like this,” and “What the hell, I’m already sweating like a Mexican.”

In an email to MSNBC.com, a Target spokesperson apologized for the distribution of the offensive memo and said that it “was used during conversations at one distribution center” and “was never part of any formal or company-wide training.”

“It is never Target’s intent to offend our team members or guests and we apologize,” the memo stated. “The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is.”

Gonzalez says he reported the issue to his human resources department, but his complaint instigated even more racist and abusive behavior from his supervisors. The three were fired and are now seeking punitive damages for harassment, failure to prevent harassment, age and race discrimination and retaliation from the national retailer.

The lawsuit alleges the managers’ memorandum indicates rampant discrimination against Hispanic employees that occurs regularly within the company.

Molly Snyder, a spokeswoman for Target, said, “At this time we have not been served with the complaint, so I am not able to comment on it directly. However, I can share that Target is firmly committed to diversity and inclusivity in our workplace. We never tolerate or condone discrimination in any form, and have extensive policies and procedures in place to prevent discrimination. As this is pending litigation, we don’t have anything additional to share at this time.”

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