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Tiffany lawsuit moved to federal courthouse

By KELLY NIX

Published: Dec. 30, 2011

A DISCRIMINATION lawsuit filed in August by a former employee of Tiffany & Co. in Carmel has been moved out of Monterey County Superior Court to federal court at the request of attorneys for the jewelry company.

Ex-Tiffany & Co. worker Ruth Herrera claimed in a lawsuit that managers at the Carmel shop on Ocean Avenue subjected her to discrimination, harassment and retaliation because she is Mexican. Tiffany has denied Herrera’s allega- tions.

According to court documents, Tiffany filed a notice moving the case to United States District Court, Northern District of California — the federal court headquartered in San Francisco.

In its notice to have the case transferred, the New York-based Tiffany & Co. indicated federal court, not Superior Court, was the proper jurisdiction to handle the case. The company’s attorneys also said that the amount in damages Herrera is seeking in damages will likely exceed $75,000, another criterion for having a case moved to federal court.

In her lawsuit filed Aug. 26, Herrera alleged she was denied promotions and meal and rest breaks. She also claimed a manager at the store frequently targeted Herrera’s ethnicity by making fun of her accent and calling her a “beaner” and a “brownie.”

In July 2009, when Herrera said she applied for a promotion, she claims a store manager denied her the job because, “English was not her first language.”

Herrera is claiming discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, breach of contract, wrongful discharge, improper withholding of commissions, and other charges. The former worker alleges that managers directed customers to other salespeople while she was given relatively menial tasks. Herrera also claims store managers refused to give her sick and vacation leave.

She claimed the alleged treatment by her supervisors left her with severe emotional distress and contends she has lost wages and benefits as a result of the way she was treated.

Tiffany has not yet responded to the suit.