The retail giant Macy's has agreed to a series of reforms, as well as a $650,000 settlement, to address complaints of racial profiling at its Herald Square location. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office headed the investigation, finding former employees who claimed that Macy's "loss prevention employees at the store tracked and followed African-American, Latino, and other minority customers much more frequently than white customers" and other damning allegations.
Schneiderman said, "It is absolutely unacceptable—and it's illegal—for anyone in New York to be treated like a criminal simply because of the color of their skin. Recent allegations of racial profiling at some of New York's most famous stores stand as a stark reminder that the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are still needed today—and that equal justice under law remains an American ideal we are striving to attain. This agreement will help ensure that no one is unfairly singled out as a suspected criminal when they shop in New York and that all New Yorkers enjoy full and equal access to our retail establishments." Earlier this month, Schneiderman announced a settlement with Barneys over racial profiling.
From the AG's press release:
The complaints alleged, among other things, that minority customers were wrongly stopped and detained by loss prevention employees of the store after traveling between floors by escalator with unconcealed merchandise, despite having no intention of shoplifting, and that customers with limited English proficiency suspected of shoplifting or credit card fraud were not permitted to make phone calls, were denied access to an interpreter, and were required to sign trespass notices even though they could not understand the notices in English.
In addition to reviewing complaints by customers, the Attorney General’s Office met with former Macy’s sales representatives for the Herald Square department store who alleged that loss prevention employees at the store tracked and followed African -American, Latino, and other minority customers much more frequently than white customers. Finally, the Attorney General’s review of data produced by Macy’s showed that Macy’s investigated and detained minorities for allegedly shoplifting at significantly higher rates than whites.
In January 2005, Macy's entered into a consent decree with the Attorney General's Office to resolve allegations that its asset protection policies and practices, including its handcuffing policies, violated various anti-discrimination laws. The terms of that agreement ended in 2008. Despite improvements in some areas and the continuation of certain consent decree reforms, the Attorney General's investigation found that Macy's was continuing to stop and detain a higher percentage of its minority shoppers than non-minority shoppers.
Back in 2005, Macy's paid $600,000 to settle the racial profiling complaint.
Macy's agreed to the following reforms:
Designate an independent expert on anti-discrimination laws and prevention of racial profiling in retail loss prevention who will report to the Attorney General’s Office on compliance by Macy’s with the agreement for three years;
Employ an internal full-time security monitor who will report to an executive outside of Macy’s Loss Prevention Department, monitor Macy’s loss prevention policies and practices, and be responsible for ensuring compliance with the terms of this settlement;
Post its Customers’ Bill of Rights, in English and Spanish, in a prominent location, accessible to the public, in each of its stores in the State of New York and on the Macy’s, Inc. website;
Establish new recordkeeping requirements on apprehensions, non-productive detentions, and customer interactions conducted by loss prevention employees throughout all New York stores, as well as on reports and tips made by sales employees at the Herald Square store;
Adopt new policies regarding anti-profiling, loss prevention detention, and access to Macy’s closed-circuit television rooms by external law enforcement officers;
Train employees on topics such as anti-profiling, proper loss prevention investigatory and interview tactics, and best practices with respect to the treatment of detainees in custody;
Investigate customer complaints alleging unreasonable detentions, racial profiling or racial discrimination; and
Pay $650,000 in costs, fees, and penalties to New York State.
The agreement will apply to Macy's 42 stores in New York.
Treme star Rob Brown and Douglas Wigdor, who said they were detained by Macy's, issued a statement saying, "It is our hope that based on this agreement, as well as our individual agreement, that retailers will treat their customers with dignity and respect regardless of the color of their skin or ethnicity."
Macy's, which didn't confirm or deny the allegations, said, "We at Macy’s are committed to fulfilling the ideals of diversity, inclusion and respect that our company aspires to achieve — every day, in every store and office, with every customer and associate."