B&H Photo and Video store in New York City.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Manhattan-based B&H, the USA’s largest non-chain photography and specialty electronics retailer, was slapped with a lawsuit this week alleging it discriminates against its non-Jewish employees.
The New York Post reported on Wednesday that the company – which is owned by the Satmar hassid Herman Schreiber – was sued by one former and two current employees for pervasive religious discrimination.
The summons was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York on Monday on behalf of Raul Pedraza, Oscar Martinez and Antonio Hernandez. The plaintiffs allege that the management of the company “promoted and tolerated a hostile work environment based on a pattern and practice of national origin discrimination and religious discrimination.”
Pedraza, Martinez and Hernandez worked for B&H for seven, 15 and 18 years respectively. The lawsuit is seeking $200,000 in damages, claiming the company discriminated “through pervasive intimidation, ridicule, and disparate treatment” and that it “hired Mexican immigrants for the purpose of exploiting them.”
B&H is known for employing hundreds of Orthodox Jews. The 9th Ave. store is closed on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, and its website does not accept orders on those days.
The suit alleges that B&H created a hostile work environment and that Mexican employees were called “goy,” “animals,” “stupid Mexicans” and told their religion is fake. The suit claims that the company gave its Jewish employees better wages, easier work, more promotions, more management training and more flexible work conditions. It also alleges that “when each of its Jewish employees had a baby, B&H awarded the employee a $2,000 bonus plus two paid days off, but did not grant its non-Jewish/Mexican employees a similar award when they had children.”
A spokesman for B&H told the New York Post that employees of the company – regardless of their religion – “get $180 when they have a baby, adopt a baby, get married or one of their children gets married.”
On Wednesday, the website Yeshiva World News printed a letter reportedly sent to all B&H employees after the Post article. The letter, purportedly from Jeff Gerstel, B&H’s chief marketing officer, said the article is “false and misleading,” and that “the suit is riddled with preposterous claims and outright lies that were disproven in prior actions.”
The Post reported that the parties have since reached a confidential settlement, which has yet to be filed in court.
This is not the first time B&H has faced legal action over its workplace behavior. In 2009, it paid out a $4.3 million settlement over claims it discriminated against Hispanic workers. Last year, after a suit by the federal government, it agreed to pay a $3.2 million settlement over claims it hired exclusively Hispanic men for its labor positions – discriminating against women, black and Asian workers – and subjected them to harassment and unsanitary working conditions.
B&H began as a “mom and pop” shop opened in Tribeca in 1973 by wife and husband partners Blimie and Herman Schreiber.
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