NEW YORK, USA — A Puerto Rican woman, her Jamaican boyfriend, and a former co-worker have filed a US$3 million discriminatory lawsuit against their ex-boss at an upscale perfume store, claiming that she used racial epithets against blacks and other minorities.
According to the lawsuit, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, Veronica Robledo and Karin Widmann said they are seeking damages, accusing the store’s owner, Laurice Rahme, of violating their civil rights and for firing them after they objected to her “pattern of racism against customers and employees.”
The boyfriend’s name was not disclosed .
The former employees of the Bond No 9 perfume shop accused Rahme of being a racist, stating that she reportedly called blacks “thieves” and used a code phrase to alert security personnel when dark-skinned customers entered the store.
“We need the light bulbs changed,” was the signal for an unwelcome customer, the lawsuit claims.
Robledo, 41, who lives in the Bronx and worked for Rahme for nine years, also claims her ex-boss would not let her serve white customers because “my skin is dark.”
“I was very offended,” she told reporters here. “The last eight months were torture. I was afraid to speak to a black customer. ”
Robledo said she even had to keep quiet about her black Jamaican boyfriend and “tell him to hide when he came to pick me up so (Rahme) wouldn’t see him.”
Robledo said the last straw was when Rahme accused her in February of knowing a black customer who was caught shoplifting in another store.
She said Rahme fired her and Widmann when they finally mustered the courage to complain about the alleged racist remarks in February.
Robledo also stated Rahme then accused them of stealing US$25,000 worth of stock, which they denied.
However, in response, Rahme said she is not racist, blaming the suit on “disgruntled employees” who got caught allegedly stealing.
She said most of her workers are from minority groups, adding that she welcomes black customers.
Rahme, however, admitted that she uses the “light bulbs” code but only “to protect the girls” when someone suspicious enters the stores.
She also admitted that, each time her store was robbed, “they were all African-American robbers.”