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Monday, May 7, 2012

Newt Gingrich's Favorite Jewelry Store Is Being Sued for Racial Discrimination

Posted By on Mon, May 7, 2012 at 1:29 PM

According to Herrera's charges, the Monterey County Tiffany's operated like it was 1961.
  • According to Herrera's charges, the Monterey County Tiffany's operated like it was 1961.
Walk into a jewelry store, especially one of the fancier ones, and you'll likely encounter a rush of customer service. An engaging smile, a hand on the shoulder, Oh that's such a wonderful shirt you're wearing. Each entrant, after all, holds significant commission potential and we all have rent to pay.

But perhaps that friendliness doesn't extend to co-workers -- at least not at Tiffany's.

A former Tiffany's employee is suing Newt Gingrich's favorite jewelry store for allegedly discriminating against her and harassing her because of her race.

The suit, filed in the Monterey County Superior Court last summer, charges that the store manager at a Carmel Tiffany's denied Ruth Hererra a promotion "because English was not her first language." It also claims that her immediate supervisor "frequently referred to Ms. Herrera as 'brownie' and 'beaner,' referring to Ms. Herrera's Mexican descent."

According to court documents, Herrera, who was deposed last week, began working at Tiffany's as a "retail sales professional" in September 2007. Two years later she applied for a promotion to the "operations manager" position. Store manager Amanda Thompson, the suit claims, "informed Ms. Herrera that they were reserving the position for someone with 'perfect English and grammar.'"

After that, the woman who got the promotion allegedly "began a campaign of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against Ms. Herrera on account of her race, ethnicity, national origin, and religion."

Herrera claims that, in addition to using racial slurs, Knutson made fun of her accent; "called her a 'loser'" when she revealed that she was baptist; assigned her non-sales tasks such as setting up window displays and cleaning the store; sometimes denied her lunch breaks; and "directed customers to other sales agents to reduce Ms. Herrera's total sales (and, as such, her commission)."

In February 2010, the suit states, Herrera complained about Knutson to Thompson. A week later, Thompson fired Herrera, citing low sales figures.

The charges filed include discrimination, hostile work environment harassment, retaliation, and breach of contract. Herrera is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

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Albert Samaha


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