Part of the cosmetics giant L’OrÃ©al was recently found guilty of racial discrimination after it sought to exclude non-white women from promoting its shampoo.
In a landmark case, the Garnier division of the beauty empire, along with a recruitment agency it employed, were fined Ã¢,Â¬30 000 each after they recruited women on the basis of race. The historic ruling — the first time a major company has been found guilty of systematic race discrimination in France — saw a senior figure at the agency given a three-month suspended prison sentence.
The French group SOS Racisme brought the case against L’OrÃ©al over the campaign in 2000. Garnier France sought saleswomen to demonstrate the shampoo line Fructis Style in supermarkets outside Paris.
In July 2000, a fax detailing the profile of hostesses sought by L’OrÃ©al stipulated women should be 18 to 22, size 38-42 and ”BBR”, the initials for bleu, blanc, rouge, the colours of the French flag. Prosecutors argued that BBR was also a well-known code among employers to mean ”white” French people and not those of African and Asian backgrounds.
Christine Cassan, a former employee at Districom, a communications firm acting for Garnier, told the court her clients demanded white hostesses. She said that when she had gone ahead and presented candidates ”of colour” a superior in her own company had said she had ”had enough of Christine and her Arabs”.
One woman working in the recruitment firm involved said foreign-sounding names or photos showing a candidate was of Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian or other African origin would ensure candidates were eliminated. Another said: ”I once had a good woman candidate but she was non-white. I had to ask someone to pretend that our list was full.” — Ã‚