Two Women Blame Firings on Race Discrimination, False Theft Allegations

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Two former Target employees are suing the retail chain for racial discrimination, alleging their ethnicity played a role in their being falsely accused of thefts that led to their firings.

Aaliyah Shepherd, who is Black, and Sierra Vidal, of Dominican/Pacific Islander descent, brought the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuits on Dec. 13 and 15, respectively, seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

A Target representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Shepherd, then an 18-year-old incoming student at San Jose State University, was hired for a part-time seasonal job at Target's Inglewood store in late October 2020, the suit states. She was given cashier training and an employee handbook, but was not instructed on Target's loss prevention policy, the suit states.

Two months later, a Target loss prevention employee told Shepherd that store security cameras showed she had either given away or voided merchandise for a customer, the suit states. Shepherd had processed a merchandise return and had given the customer a refund, but forgot to put the returned item in a bin to be later put back on a store shelf, the suit states.

``Defendants falsely accused plaintiff of conspiring with the customer to return his/her payment and allow the customer to keep the merchandise,'' the suit states. ``Plaintiff was shocked and immediately denied the conduct, denied conspiring with anyone and demanded to see the video that (purported) to depict plaintiff's dishonesty.''

Pressured by the loss prevention officer and an Inglewood police officer to sign a document admitting to theft, Shepherd did so in fear she would otherwise be arrested and prosecuted and that her college career would be jeopardized, the suit states.

Shepherd was immediately fired after signing and later received letters from law firms representing Target seeking restitution and civil damages stemming from the transaction with the customer, the suit states. She paid part of the money demanded and believes her treatment was racially motivated, the suit states.

Vidal, a 21-year-old student at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, had been employed with Target store in Westwood for a little more than six months when the store security manager, Kyle Kurtz, told her to come with him to the human resources office on Jan. 13, the suit states. Vidal had applied for a human resources job and believed that she was brought there to discuss her application, the suit states.

Instead, Kurtz asked Vidal about a voided transaction, an inadvertent failure to return merchandise, incorrect use of price matching and permitting a friend to use her employee discount, the suit states.

Kurtz said he had video footage of the transactions, but never showed it to Vidal, the suit states. He then told her to write a statement admitting to all of the conduct and to apologize in the hopes that Target would forgive her and not take her to court, according to the suit.

Fearing possible criminal charges and civil damages, Vidal wrote a statement as outlined by Kurtz, the suit states. She believed she would receive no more than a warning, the suit states.

However, Vidal was instead fired and forced to sign a second document agreeing to repay the money Target allegedly lost in the applicable transactions, the suit states. Her final pay check included a $54 deduction to make that payment, according to the suit.

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