A former Neiman Marcus employee who had an exemplary record selling fragrances to wealthy customers in the retailer’s Beverly Hills store was fired because he was Jewish and gay, an attorney told a jury today.
In his opening statement in the trial of Amir Peleg’s discrimination lawsuit, lawyer Nicholas Rowley said his client was subjected to anti-Semitic comments from his boss, Maryam Emamian, who was of Iranian descent.
When Peleg, a son of Holocaust survivors, asked Emamian for vacation time to visit his native Israel, she asked, “Why are you going back to Jewland? All they do is kill people there,” Rowley said.
Peleg is entitled to $12 million in compensatory damages, Rowley told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
But Neiman Marcus attorney Thomas Mackey said Peleg was fired because an internal investigation showed he and another employee knew that a customer was selling fragrance and cosmetic samples from the store over the Internet. The samples were supposed to be reserved as handouts to high-end customers to encourage them to return and try other products, Mackey said.
Mackey also denied Peleg was treated differently because of his national origin or sexual orientation. He said the founders of Neiman Marcus were Jewish and that people of that ethnicity have held senior positions in the company ever since, including the current CEO.
“The employees reflect the diversity of the community,” Mackey said.
According to Rowley, Peleg performed his job well and had many loyal customers, but Emamian did not respect him for his abilities.
“He was not part of Maryam’s clique,” Rowley said.
Rowley said Emamian became angry when Peleg won a prize of a $900 set of fragrances from a manufacturer. There was one bottle each for men and women and Emamian handed him only the latter, Rowley said.
After Peleg told the fragrance maker what happened and learned that he was entitled to both bottles, Emamian became even more upset, Rowley said.
“This is why Arabs hate Jews, you go behind people’s backs,” Emamian said, according to Rowley.
Emamian was herself fired in October 2008, Rowley said.
But Mackey told jurors that Neiman Marcus’s internal investigation revealed Peleg was giving large amounts of the skin moisturizer Creme de la Mer to a single customer. He said the cream sells for $160 an ounce and that each sample weighed 1/4 ounce.
According to Mackey, Peleg’s customer was selling the products online and that they targeted customers in China. He said Neiman Marcus also fired the second employee allegedly linked to the Internet sales.
— City News Service
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