Top fashion house Louis Vuitton is being sued over racism claims after a boss at a flagship store allegedly told an African employee: “Black people are slaves who eat dirt off the floor.”
Sales associate Oliver Koffi claims he was in a stock room packing a pair of shoes for a customer when his manager began the shocking race rant in front of stunned staff.
He alleged that the manager called Barack Obama a “muppet” and said America would be better off with “Miss Piggy” as its president because “Muslim people… don’t eat pork”.
Mr Koffi says he was left humiliated by the “black slaves” slur while working at the label’s store in Central London.
Details of the allegations emerged in papers which will be presented to a Central London Employment Tribunal on July 18.
Mr Koffi is suing Louis Vuitton for racist discrimination and harassment.
He claims his manager’s tone of voice was “cold and serious” as he made the comments during a discussion on the origins of the English language with him and three other members of staff in December last year.
Mr Koffi said: “During this discussion, my manager quite randomly stated that ‘black people are slaves and eat dirt off the floor’.
“This comment was grossly offensive and extremely humiliating.
“His reference to slavery in this day and age with regards to black people is quite frankly revolting.”
Mr Koffi was a contract worker at the Louis Vuitton Townhouse at London’s iconic Selfridges department store at the time of the incident.
He says he recorded the offensive comments on tape after concerns over the manager’s alleged “racist conduct”.
He added: “He went on a rant about black people and other races and religions. He jumped from subject to subject, making comments about other races and religions. He made comments about Barack Obama.
“All of his comments were derogatory and a clear illustration of his prejudices towards other races and religions.
“His comments were offensive and degrading. I confronted him about his statement that ‘black people are slaves and eat dirt off the floor’.
“I told him that I was offended by his comment. He did not deny making the comment. He apologised and claimed it was a ‘joke’. It was not a joke at all.”
Mr Koffi says the manager, who left his job following a disciplinary proceeding, had previously questioned him about his nationality, asking, “where are you originally from?” and often referred to customers by their skin colour.
He alleges that the manager’s frequent remarks about Asian people and his comments about some Louis Vuitton products being “s***” because they were “made in China” created a “hostile and intimidating” working environment.
His solicitor Lawrence Davies, of Equal Justice solicitors, said: “The case will set the 21st century bar as to what employers have to do to prevent racism in the workplace.”
Louis Vuitton accepts that the racist comment was made but defends the claim on the basis the company had taken all reasonably practicable steps to prevent the racist comment.
High-end fashion has recently faced a barrage of racism claims, with models Naomi Campbell and Imam supporting worldwide diversity campaigns.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Louis Vuitton said: “Louis Vuitton has a zero-tolerance policy to harassment of any kind.
“This reported sentiment is in total violation of the Louis Vuitton Ethical charter.
“This issue was investigated, and the manager in question no longer works within the company.” – The Daily Mirror