Shamael Lataillade, a former employee at a Moschino boutique in West Hollywood, California, filed a lawsuit against the Italian luxury clothing company for racial discrimination against her and shoppers of color. In the suit, Lataillade claims that employees at the store were instructed to racially profile black patrons who didn’t appear to be wealthy and classify them using a racist codename.

Lataillade says a store supervisor would call black clientele “Serena” and ordered employees to follow and watch them closely if they weren’t wearing diamonds or name brand clothing, according to documents obtained by TMZ. Associates were also told to tell so-called “Serenas” that certain items were out of stock. The female supervisor even went as far as sometimes recording the license plate numbers of black clients. In one instance, she purportedly called the police to report a “suspicious” customer who Lataillade says turned out to be a high-profile rapper.

In addition, Lataillade, who is a Haitian-American woman, claims that the supervisor stereotyped her as someone who practices voodoo. Lataillade argues that she was then fired for speaking out about the “Serena” code word and other forms of racism she faced.

Ironically, the code word “Serena” seems to be a reference to iconic tennis star Serena Williams, who boasts a net worth around $180 million.

In response to the suit, which seeks unspecified damages, Moschino denied Lataillade’s charges and told TMZ the company “complies with applicable equal employment laws and values and respects all customers and clients regardless of their race or background.”

Nevertheless, this lawsuit points to the notorious phenomenon of “shopping while black,” an epidemic that dates back to the 20th century, when department stores prohibited black shoppers from using their main entrance and trying on clothes in fear their skin would tarnished items. Oprah Winfrey even fell victim to the “shopping while black” stigma back in 2013, when a Zurich store clerk snubbed the billionaire and suggested that she could not afford a $38,000 purse.

LifestyleRacial profilingRacismRacism in the workplaceShopping while black

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