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Toy Store Sued for Discrimination

September 29, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Current and former employees suing F.A.O. Schwartz for racial discrimination said Tuesday that the upscale toy store chain knew their former boss had vowed to rid the store of minorities.

``I felt she was getting her directives from them,″ said Anil Ganga, one of eight former and current workers at F.A.O. Schwartz’s flagship Fifth Avenue store who are suing the chain.

Ganga said manager Kay Helm told him in a June meeting with a senior manager present that there were ``too many shades of brown″ on the staff and that she had spoken with the Human Resources Department about making the race of the staff more like the store’s primarily white clientele.

Ganga, who is of Asian Indian descent, said he quit rather than work for Ms. Helm.

F.A.O. Schwartz Chief Executive officer John Eyler called the alleged conduct ``offensive and intolerable.″

However, an internal investigation that concluded no employee was fired or punished because of race, the company said.

Store officials said immediate action was taken when they learned Ms. Helm had made racially insensitive remarks. She resigned after being confronted about the remarks.

Ms. Helm could not be reached for comment.

The company noted that during Ms. Helm’s tenure, minority employees received 9 of 11 promotions and 79.5 percent of employees hired were minorities.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court Monday, seeks unspecified back pay, future pay, benefits, compensatory and punitive damages.

F.A.O. Schwartz has 38 stores and 1,400 workers nationwide.