Stereotyping at Target

Target-woodlandEmployees at a Target facility in California have sued the company for discrimination. The employees claim that managers used racial slurs when communicating with them and that racial stereotyping appeared in a document used for training.

In the document, "Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips," the company reminded employees to avoid stereotypes of ethnic groups, such as Hispanics. The trouble is, the document itself portrayed stereotypes:

a. Food: not everyone eats tacos and burritos;
b. Music: not everyone dances to salsa;
c. Dress: not everyone wears a sombrero;
d. Mexicans (lower education level, some may be undocumented);
e. Cubans (Political refugees, legal status, higher education level); and
f. They may say 'OK, OK' and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.

According to Target spokesperson Molly Snyder, the document was not used in a formal training program, but she did admit that it was used "during conversations at a company distribution center," according to The Huffington Post

On behalf of the company, Snyder said, "It is never Target's intent to offend our team members or guests, and we apologize."  She also said, "The content of the document referenced is not representative of who Target is. We strive at all times to be a place where our team and guests feel welcome, valued, and respected."

In the complaint, employees accuse their primarily Caucasian managers of using racial slurs when speaking to Hispanic employees. Examples from Courthouse News Service include "Only a 'wetback' can work this hard," "You got to be Mexican to work like this," and "What the hell, I'm already sweating like a Mexican."

This reminds me of another recent story: Tactile Brazilians and Other French Stereotypes.

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • What was Target's motivation for creating the document? Why did it fail?
  • What could the company have done differently to achieve its objective? Still, what are the risks with the approaches you considered?