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Best Buy Charged with Race and Sex Discrimination

On Thursday, six current and former employees of electronics retailer Best Buy filed a complaint alleging that the chain discriminated against women and minorities in hiring, pay, and promotions in violation of state and federal laws. The suit, Holloway et. Al. v. Best Buy Co, Inc., was filed in the US District Court in San Francisco and seeks an injunction against the discriminatory practices, the institution of company programs to ensure equal opportunities, and back pay for all plaintiffs.

The Associated Press reports that the complaint claims that managers ignored applications from those “who do not conform to the (company’s) young, white, male culture.” Nationwide, over 80 percent of store managers are white men, with women making up less than 10 percent and minorities making up less than 10 percent. Plaintiff Cheryl Chappel alleges that gender stereotypes and discrimination kept her from being promoted, as managers told her the position of operations supervisor was “a man thing,” and that “girls can’t sell,” according to the plaintiffs’ press release. Furthermore, of the four customer types Best Buy has identified for its sales force to target, all are white, and only one is a woman: “Barry,” is a man with a high income who purchases what he wants regardless of cost; “Ray,” a man who likes electronic gadgets; “Buzz,” is a young man who likes gaming; and “Jill” is identified as “Barry’s” wife and a homemaker.

“Best Buy is touting its modern, high-tech products for customers this holiday season. The company’s views of women and minority employees, however, remain outdated and obsolete,” said Bill Lann Lee, former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice, and attorney for the plaintiffs. An age discrimination suit filed against Best Buy last year is still pending.

Sources:

Associated Press 12/8/05; Los Angeles Times 12/9/05; Press Release from Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP and Schneider & Wallace, 12/8/05

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