SAO PAULO, Oct 6 (Reuters) - An attempt by one of Brazil's
largest retailers to target racial disparities in its management
ranks sparked a backlash by the country's federal public
defender's office, which accused Magazine Luiza SA of
The public defender, Jovino Bento Junior, said the retailer
was basing its recruitment "exclusively on skin color" and that
would be discriminatory, according to a document, dated Sept 28,
in which he proposes a lawsuit against the company.
A group of 11 other public defenders who focus on ethnic and
racial issues publicly repudiated Bento's complaint.
Last month, the department store chain and Internet retailer
launched a trainee program exclusively focused on recruiting
Black people, saying the move was aimed at increasing diversity
in its executive ranks.
Civil rights issues in Brazil have rarely provoked mass
protests as in the United States, but social statistics show
widespread signs of racial discrimination. Its large Black
population is underrepresented in professional jobs, earning
roughly 56% of what white people make, according to government
statistics agency IBGE.
Magazine Luiza is offering a monthly salary of 6,600 reais,
about six times the country's minimum wage, plus benefits such
as health and dental insurance, to a maximum of 20 applicants
who graduated from college between 2017 and 2020.
"All workers should have access to the job market in equal
opportunities," Bento wrote, adding that while some form of
affirmative action could be warranted, only some of those
positions should be reserved to minorities.
Bento expressed concern that other companies could follow
Magazine Luiza's lead, limiting "access to job and income" for
non-minority applicants, he added. He accused the company of
focusing on "corporate marketing."
Magazine Luiza declined to comment.
On Monday, the chain's founder and chairman Luiza Trajano
said in a TV interview she launched the trainee program after
realizing the company's leadership was composed entirely of
"Slavery was in Brazil for 350 years, the majority (of its
population) is black, the majority lives on the outskirts. This
is the truth, so they don't apply (for trainee programs)," she
said. "When I realized what structural racism is, I even cried."
(Reporting by Carolina Mandl, additional reporting by Ricardo
Brito, in Brasilia; Editing by Christian Plumb and David