L’Oréal found out for hiring only white shampoo-promoters

// 12 July 2007

A French division of make-up giant L’Oréal has been found guilty of racial discrimination and ordered to pay a €30,000 fine, reports The Guardian.

L’Oréal instructed a recruitment agency – which has also been fined, and a “senior figure” given a three-month suspended jail sentence – to find “hostesses” to demonstrate shampoo outside supermarkets. And here’s where it gets really nasty:

In July 2000, a fax detailing the profile of hostesses sought by L’Oréal stipulated women should be 18 to 22, size 38-42 (UK size 10-14) and “BBR”, the initials for bleu, blanc, rouge, the colours of the French flag. Prosecutors argued that BBR, a shorthand used by the far right, was also a well-known code among employers to mean “white” French people and not those of north African, African and Asian backgrounds.

First off, I’m guessing this points to wider instances of discrimination, as L’Oréal felt free to give these instructions in a fax, and also to use some kind of fascist code they could be sure the agency would understand and act on, to get the message across.

Christine Cassan, a former employee at Districom, a communications firm acting for Garnier, told the court her clients demanded white hostesses. She said that when she had gone ahead and presented candidates “of colour” a superior in her own company had said she had “had enough of Christine and her Arabs”.

One woman working in the recruitment firm involved said foreign-sounding names or photos showing a candidate was of Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian or other African origin would ensure candidates were eliminated. Another said: “I once had a good woman candidate but she was non-white. I had to ask someone to pretend that our list was full. It was hard.”

One experienced candidate said she realised she was not eligible because she was of mixed race. In a normal sample of women recruited for similar sales work, around 40% would be non-white. For the Fructis project, less than 4% were of “non-European” origin.

And here’s a nice statistic thrown in, the cherry on the top: “Racial discrimination in employment is a huge problem in France with a recent survey finding three out of four firms preferred white workers.”

L’Oréal owns brands ranging from Lancôme to the Body Shop, which it bought last year. It said yesterday it would immediately appeal against the decision, which it found “incomprehensible”.

“We believe that diversity and difference are a source of richness and we do not tolerate any form of racism or discrimination,” the statement said.

All of which would be much more believable, if they at least admitted they were in the wrong.

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