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Suit: Versace Used Secret 'Code' for Black Shoppers

Christopher Sampino says he was fired from the Versace outlet store in Livermore after two weeks

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    File photo of Versace logo.

    A former Versace employee has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company, alleging it uses a code word to alert workers when black shoppers enter the store.

    Christopher Sampino, 23, says he was fired from the Versace outlet store in Livermore, California, after two weeks despite meeting and "exceeding expectations." 

    Sampino accuses the company of training him and other workers to use the code "D410" or hold up a black colored shirt when a black person entered the store, the lawsuit alleges. "D410" is the same code used for black-colored items of clothing, the suit states.

    He alleges to have complained about the discrimination during new employee training, telling a manager "You know that I'm African-American?" In the lawsuit, Sampiro self-identifies as one-quarter African American. 

    The lawsuit claims after the revelation he was denied proper training and rest breaks, and was fired because "he didn't understand luxury."

    Sampino is suing for damages and unpaid wages. He earned $13 an hour and worked 40 hours a week. His lawyers, Michael Robert Hoffman and Stephen Noel Ilg, said that he is owed $59,800 in back pay and other monetary losses, $25,000 for emotional distress, and at least $100,000 for "race-related" punitive damages. The attorneys noted they should also be paid $65,000 in attorney fees.

    In a statement, Versace denies the allegations and attorney Joseph Alan Schwachter said the company plans to file for dismissal.

    "We do not tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, national origin or any other characteristic protected by our civil rights laws," the statement says.

    The suit was filed Dec. 16 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, although a version of the allegations was first filed in Alameda County Superior Court on Nov. 16, before it moved to federal court.

    According to court documents, Judge Kandis A. Westmore ordered the case be assigned to an Alternative Dispute Resolution. The first case management conference is scheduled for March 21.