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Popular retailer Zara accused of racially profiling customers

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NEW YORK -- The popular clothing retailer Zara is facing allegations it racially profiles customers.

The Center for Popular Democracy released a report this week accusing Zara of targeting black customers as potential shoplifters at a much higher rate.

The social justice organization said it interviewed more than 250 Zara employees about their working conditions and treatment of shoppers.

The report claimed black shoppers were often labeled as "special order" customers.

One surveyed employee said special order customers are defended as "Anyone who looks black, not put together or urban."

Zara customer Eulanlee Christian shopped at the busy Upper West side location Thursday night.

"I am not even thinking about them. I am thinking about the clothing and that's what I go for. If I like something, I am going to get it no matter what," Christian said.

In addition to the alleged racial profiling, the report said black employees are more dissatisfied with their hours than white employees. It also said darker skinned employees reported they are least likely to be promoted.

"As a customer, I have not witnessed any type of segregation amongst employees or customers," shopper Lauren Levy said.

PIX11 News was unable to reach Zara for comment Thursday night, but DailyMail.com quotes a company spokesperson as saying the study was prepared with "ulterior motives, not because of any actual discrimination."

The comment went on to say the store "...refutes the claims contained in the report and does not use separate terminology for customers... It is an internal term used to designate a common situation in which associates are requested to enforce customer service and zone coverage on the floor."

This is not the first time Zara has been criticized. There have been several accusations of cultural insensitivity, including backlash in August 2014. The store sold a striped shirt with a gold star. It looked like a uniform worn in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Zara maintained it is a diverse company and the report is inconsistent with the company's true culture.