The guys discuss the racial discrimination filing against the makeup company Sephora. They also answer, “Can I allow my employees to bring their dogs in the office?”
Full Podcast Transcript
NASIR: All right, welcome to our podcast where we cover business in the news and answer some of your business legal questions that you, the listener, can send in to firstname.lastname@example.org– that’s an email address and not a web address. So, send in your questions that way. It’s not a phone number either. If you’re calling that, you’re just so off, I don’t even know where to start with you.
MATT: Well, I think the—
NASIR: Wait. Wait, hold on. Did you just interrupt my intro?
MATT: Yeah, I did.
NASIR: I’m not done yet.
MATT: It wasn’t going anywhere.
NASIR: My name is Nasir Pasha.
MATT: Mine’s Matt Staub.
NASIR: And I was going to say, if they ended up at the web address, it would take them to the spot where they could still submit their question.
MATT: I don’t know.
NASIR: I think. Yeah, you’re probably right.
MATT: Well, didn’t we switch stuff around with the website?
NASIR: Yeah. That’s true. If you guys are going there, you’ll be very confused. I don’t know what they’re going to see yet so it’s still in the (00:01:01 unclear).
MATT: But the email still works.
NASIR: The email still works.
NASIR: Hopefully, for you guys, it’s pretty much the same. Just ignore what we just said.
MATT: I was just thinking out loud.
NASIR: We’re going to talk about your favorite topic today, right? Makeup law.
MATT: Makeup law, yeah. Well, I don’t know too much about it.
NASIR: Didn’t you study it in law school? No?
MATT: Was that cosmetology? I think that’s an actual major.
NASIR: In law?
MATT: No, in real life.
NASIR: Oh, yeah, you can get your cosmetology license.
MATT: The place next-door to here is, well, I guess that’s more hair.
NASIR: That Paul Mitchell school?
MATT: I always want to say Paul Walker but that’s the guy from Fast and Furious. Paul Mitchell School of Hair Design. I always think it’s make-up because all the people that go to the school are wearing so much make-up, it doesn’t make sense. They’re probably the people that we’re going to talk about in this story.
MATT: So, I’ll just get into the story. So, Sephora – which is a make-up store because I’ve seen that…
NASIR: I know you know about it. Don’t act like you don’t.
MATT: I’m going after this recording. So, I guess they have some insider, some VIP-type memberships and they’ll run special deals for them. I think, in this one, it was 20 percent off all products – no limits for a five day period starting November 6. So, running this promotion and they started cutting off some people’s access or shutting down people’s accounts because they thought that they were just buying products in bulk which they call the “grey market.”
NASIR: Basically reselling, right?
MATT: Resell, yeah. I guess it’s not an illegal product so that’s why it’s not the “black market.” So, they thought these people were buying in bulk so they shut down their account because they said, “Hey, you can’t do that.” Problem is, at least the people that have filed this class action lawsuit say, that’s not the case and they all happen to be women of Chinese descent so they’re claiming racial discrimination.
NASIR: Racial discrimination and…
MATT: They probably aren’t claiming gender discrimination. I don’t know. They’re claiming the only criteria for cancelling accounts were looking at their names, seeing that they were Asian names or Chinese domain names like qq.com and 163.com which I’ve never even heard of those so I want to know that.
NASIR: First of all, this is strange to me because they put this no-limit on their discount or sale and then basically they are getting upset because people are buying too much of it, right? It doesn’t make sense to me. If they wanted a limit then just say “limit one per customer” or what everyone else does, right?
MATT: Yeah, it’s like when I saw this one store on one of the times I visited California before I moved here. It was like, “Open 24/7” then it had underneath, like, the hours they were open. It’s like, “Well, that doesn’t make sense.”
NASIR: “Open 24/7 – Monday through Wednesday.”
MATT: So, these women are claiming Sephora looked at their names, looked at their email addresses, and concluded that they were Asian and, therefore, they’re discriminating against them. But I don’t really see… I mean, it could have been a normal domain, a US domain that they would have seen – I don’t know why I said “normal domain,” I guess it’s because I’ve never seen these before.
NASIR: Yeah, I’ve never heard of them.
MATT: Like, a Gmail account and it could have just been a white person and what’s the difference in that?
NASIR: It seems like they could have blocked IP addresses or something from China or something beyond email addresses because it does look kind of shady because I’m sure even if 126.com and 123.com are popular Chinese email addresses, it’s not like they’re all going to be living in China, and that’s what happened. In fact, they allegedly have 95 percent of the blocked and deactivated accounts belong to individuals residing in the US. I bet you what happened is you have some executive that says, “Oh, crap. We’re losing money because all these people are buying in bulk,” which I don’t know why they would be losing money. Somehow, they were upset about it. They go to the IT department and say, “Hey, look, we’ve got to shut these guys down. What’s the easiest to just exclude all these Chinese shoppers? Let’s just use these domain names,” or something to that effect. Of course, that’s an issue.
There was Macy’s and Barney’s that were getting into trouble because they were detaining disproportionately African Americans or Blacks for shoplifting – at least accusing them for shoplifting – and they were sued for that. So, this is not an uncommon thing in the retail sphere.
MATT: Well, the question I have is how much these four women were purchasing that they weren’t buying in bulk, but it was enough for Sephora to think that they were buying in bulk. Like, can you stock up on make-up? I don’t know. Does it go bad?
NASIR: I definitely do not know the answer to that question. Even if they were buying in bulk, who cares? You said “no limit,” right? If you’re going to say that, then you have to allow it – very simple.
MATT: Yeah. Well, I hope they can “make up” this mistake.
NASIR: Well, this is pretty recent. I think the sales in November (00:05:42 unclear – says so?)
MATT: Yeah, this is beginning of November. So, it’s this month. Well, last month. We’re already in December.
NASIR: Already December.
NASIR: Let’s get to our question of the day. Speaking of December, how are you going to transition to that?
MATT: I don’t know. I was just hoping it would be there. It’s not.
“Can I allow my employees to bring their dogs in the office?”
I think the reverse of this question is easier if “Can I prohibit my employees from bringing their dogs in the office?” and I would say yes, unless it was a service animal or a service dog.
NASIR: Yeah, that’s pretty straight-forward and we’ve covered that in the past with even public restaurants and places that you wouldn’t normally have any kind of animals in there. Service dogs are pretty much always the exception.
MATT: Oh, we did talk, what was that?
MATT: Starbucks, yeah.
NASIR: And Starbucks knew about it but some local manager that just didn’t know the law, obviously.
MATT: It was like a veteran who was a key host speaker at a conference for, like, disabled veterans.
NASIR: Yeah, it was like a worst case scenario for a Starbucks, for sure.
MATT: Yeah, pretty awful. Well, can I allow my employees to bring their dogs in? I would also say that’s a yes; you just have to be careful about it because there’s definitely things you need to watch out for.
NASIR: Yeah, like just being sensitive to your other employees, but that’s with everything, right? At any time you’re doing something with your work environment from a management level, you have to be sensitive to whether it’s religious accommodations to even handicap to specific disabilities like maybe someone’s fearful of dogs, right?
MATT: I would say fear of dogs is pretty big, allergies. I’ll occasionally have some, like, allergies for cats –probably because dogs are just so much better.
NASIR: I knew that was coming.
MATT: And then, of course, you know, with dogs, dogs aren’t always the best in public so dog bites, it’s a legitimate concern.
NASIR: Absolutely, and usually the dog owner is the one that’s responsible for dog bites, but I can see, you know, I’m sure this has happened, if you’re endorsing this “bring the dog to work” day like some places have where you know the dog has already bitten before and you’re allowing the dog to come in anyway, that you may be exposed to some kind of contributory negligence. But, generally, I mean, most of the time, the dog owner is the one that’s responsible.
MATT: So, as the employer, let’s say you have a “bring your dog to work” policy, I would think you could still exclude certain dogs, right?
NASIR: Certain breeds?
NASIR: It’s not racist even though it sounds like it.
MATT: Yeah, I mean, if you can prevent people from renting your condo based on certain dog breeds, then I think you can get by with it at work.
NASIR: No doubt.
MATT: I might bring my dog to work one of these days. He’s all right – sometimes.
NASIR: Yeah, I think it depends on the office and the environment. But, like anything that’s unusual, creating a positive environment that is still controlled, that still has some guidelines to it without getting too crazy I think is the most appropriate way to go about it.
NASIR: I’m still trying to figure out how it relates to December as you tried to transition to it.
MATT: Ah, let’s see. Let’s see – dogs.
NASIR: Maybe some snow dogs.
MATT: I’ll get the next one. I like to not look and then hope that I can make a transition somehow. Did I do it for the episode on Monday?
NASIR: I don’t remember.
MATT: Calories and weather? I don’t think I did. Darn it! I guarantee, the Friday episode, I’ll make a transition that works.
Keep it sound and keep it smart.