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“I felt like it was direct discrimination.”

Twenty year-old Zara employee, Cree Ballah from Toronto, Canada, has spoken out after she was recently humiliated by two of her managers for having what the fashion chain staff members deemed an ‘inappropriate’ hairstyle.

Ballah, who is of African American decent, was wearing four box braids pulled into a low, simple ponytail when she was reprimanded.

Originally, the young sales assistant was told by a manager that her hair was not in keeping with Zara’s image, telling her, “We’re going for a clean professional look with Zara and the hairstyle you have now is not the look for Zara.”

Afterwards, another manager pulled Ballah aside, lead her out of the store and attempted to ‘fix’ her hair in the middle of the crowded mall, leaving the Zara employee feeling humiliated and offended.

“My hair type is also linked to my race, so to me, I felt like it was direct discrimination against my ethnicity in the sense of what comes along with it,” Ballah told CBC News in a recent interview.

“My hair type is out of my control and I try to control it to the best of my ability, which wasn’t up to standard for Zara.”

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The ‘inappropriate’ braids in question.

This isn’t the first time the Spanish retail giant has been in hot water for its questionable treatment of employees. Last year, a survey conducted by the Center for Popular Democracy (CDP) found Zara was demonstrating racial bias not only towards its employees but its customers as well.

The report established darker-skinned employees were far less likely to get a raise or be promoted and were twice as unhappy with their working hours compared to their fairer-skinned peers. As well as this, the report discovered employees were trained to report ‘special orders’ to in-store management.

‘Special orders’ are considered to be suspicious looking customers who, after being reported, are tailed by a Zara staff member to ensure no items are stolen. Results uncovered the majority of employees used the code on African American and Latino shoppers, and, according to the CPD survey, an actual member of staff of African American decent was deemed as a ‘special order’ when entering the store on his day off to collect a paycheque.

Adding insult to injury, the brand released a line of shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘White Is The New Black’ on them in 2014, causing public outcry for their racially insensitive message. 

And while the fashion chain has continued to escape largely unscathed under pleas of ignorance, its run-in with Ballah may be the final straw, with the ex-staffer currently pursuing her options, which include taking the issue to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Images via Facebook.com.

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