February 16, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

Rodeo Drive’s Jimmy Choo settles harassment case against gay employee

Interior of the Beverly Hills Jimmy Choo boutique.
Interior of the Beverly Hills Jimmy Choo boutique.

BY CNS  |  British fashion house Jimmy Choo settled a lawsuit with a 40-year-old gay Latino who said he was subjected to harassing, discriminatory behavior at the hands of his supervisor while working at the Beverly Hills store, then was fired when he complained.

Attorneys for John Ornelas filed court papers Monday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rita Miller stating that the case was resolved. No terms were divulged.

Ornelas sued Jimmy Choo and his former boss, Nikki Raffasha, on April 15, alleging wrongful termination and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and race. Defense attorneys denied any wrongdoing by Jimmy Choo or Raffasha.

Ornelas said he was hired in 2011 as a sales associate at Jimmy Choo and the next year began working at the Beverly Hills store on Via Rodeo Drive. After about a month, Raffasha began regularly insulting and mocking him, often using derogatory terms to describe his homosexuality and Hispanic background, the suit alleged.

Ornellas also alleged that Raffasha asked if he had AIDS, making mention of “how promiscuous you gays are.”

The suit alleged Raffasha went as far as using flippant, derogatory terms after Ornelas’ partner of 12 years died.

Ornelas said he reported the alleged discriminatory and harassing behavior to management multiple times, but nothing was done.

The problems came to a head in October 2014, when Raffasha took away one of his sales and reported it as her own, the suit alleged. After Ornelas confronted the boss, she allegedly said, “They will always choose me over some gay Mexican trash like you,” according to the complaint.

Management credited the sale to Ornelas, but he was fired two days later, according to his court papers.

Jimmy Choo sells high-end shoes, handbags, accessories and fragrances.

Ornelas’ attorney, Carney Shegerian, released a statement saying: “Unfortunately, this is yet another example of a successful company not following its own rules, let alone the labor code. People in positions of power harassing and discriminating against their employees is a huge problem that simply must stop. It’s our job to help Mr. Ornelas seek justice and hopefully make a public statement that this kind of abuse – in any workplace – cannot be tolerated.”

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