Having been called “macaca” (monkey) in front of other employees and humiliated because of her skin color and being a woman, Sylvia Barcellos is still trying to overcome the trauma of racial discrimination and moral assault of which she says she’s been a victim for 14 years, when she was an employee at Carrefour supermarket in the Asa Norte area of the nation’s capital, Brasília.
Carrefour was ordered by the Tribunal Superior do Trabalho (Superior Labor Court or TST) to pay R$100,000 (about US$50,000) in moral damages to a former employee who suffered racial discrimination, rude treatment and overwork, according to information from the press secretary of the court. She claimed that a director of the company came to call her ‘macaca’ (monkey) in the presence of other employees.
According to the lawsuit, the employee proved that she suffered moral assault for 14 years and therefore ended up being a victim of burnout syndrome, and has been incapacitated for three years. The disease was confirmed by psychiatric assessment. The former employee was hired in 1994 to work as a department chief in Carrefour Sul in Brasília, and ended up cumulatively taking on other assignments, also doing the work of a department chief, account officer and director secretary. She said she suffered harassment caused by “psychological terror”, with intimidating, embarrassing and humiliating pressures.
From January 2006, she had developed depression, insomnia, anxiety, among other psychological ailments and applying for a medical leave. For not handling the pressure, the worker requested termination from the company in December 2010, according to the advisory.
In March of this year, the 6th Chamber of the Tribunal Superior do Trabalho (Superior Court of Labor or TST) ordered the company Carrefour Comércio e Indústria Ltda. (Carrefour Commerce and Industry Ltda) to pay R$100,000 (US$50,000) in punitive damages. The decision is still be appealed.
The lawyers network appealed the decision in the Tribunal no Regional do Trabalho (Regional Labor Court) of the 10th Region (Distrito Federal and state of Tocantins) and managed to lower the amount to R$12,000 (US$6,000). The magistrate held that the indemnity seeks compensation for damages and not the enrichment of the victim. The initial value, however, was eventually restored on the 6th of this month. The minister Aloysio Corrêa da Veiga, considered that “the regional decision didn’t respect the principle of proportionality, the pedagogical nature of the measure, and neither has reasonability on the alleged facts.” In view of the Minister, the increase in indemnity seeks to curb abuses by businesses “that adopt misconduct with their employees.”
Sought for a statement Carrefour said that it does not comment on cases that are pending in court, but “reinforces that it has a firm commitment to act in accordance with the guidelines of the Code of Conduct for Business, which repudiates any attitude of prejudice and prioritizes respect for ethics and the law.”
“To raise awareness, even more, their collaborators and ensure compliance with these principles, Carrefour held this year the training of more than 50 thousand employees with the theme “Valorização da Diversidade (Appreciation of Diversity)”, which includes a large internal communication campaign “Diversidade é a Nossa Cara (Diversity is Our Face)”. The company also conducts social activities in partnership with organizations that promote racial equality, like the Faculdade Zumbi dos Palmares (University of Zumbi dos Palmares) (1) and FROMPIR – Fórum Regional Oeste Metropolitano de Promoção da Igualdade Racial (West Metropolitan Regional Forum for the Promotion of Racial Equality), supporting the training of young people for the labor market. To coordinate these activities, it has a division responsible for conducting the topics focused on diversity,” adds the note.
|Januário Alves de Santana|
This is not the first time Carrefour has been involved with an incident involving racial discrimination. Perhaps the most infamous occurrence happened in August of 2009 in Osasco (metro São Paulo area), when a black security guard/electronic technician, Januário Alves de Santana, was brutally beaten, insulted and interrogated for 20 minutes by Carrefour security after being accused of stealing his own car, a silver EcoSport.
Waiting outside for his family that was making purchases inside the store, Santana was mistaken for a thief and taken to a room by five security officers who didn’t believe him when he said that the car was his. When police arrived on the scene, they also didn’t believe the car belonged to Santana. According to Santana, after claiming the car was his, security laughed and said “sua cara não nega, negão (your face doesn’t deny it, big black)” and “se você não calar a boca, neguinho, vou acabar com você (if you don’t shut up, little black, I’ll put an end to you).” Santana suffered a fractured face, a lost tooth and alteration of his lower jaw. According to Santana, none of the security officers were white although a few had lighter skin than he. “In the minds of some people, only a doctor who is white can have one of these cars. I am a worker. I work day and night in two jobs and with much effort I am paying the car note”, Santana said.
1. Located in São Paulo, it is Brazil and Latin America’s only black college with nearly 90% of its student body identifying as black. See more here.