The New York City Commission on Human Rights has issued a subpoena to Macy’s Law Department, ordering them to provide the commission with documents by Dec. 10 for all Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s locations in New York City, regarding information that pertains to their policies on loss prevention and approaching and detaining individuals suspected of theft.
This story first appeared in the December 3, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Patricia L. Gatling, NYC Human Rights Commissioner, said Monday, “It is disappointing that they have not fully cooperated in the commission’s investigation into recent allegations of racial profiling at some of the city’s larger retail stores and instead sought to dictate the terms and scope of our investigation. The commission will be issuing subpoenas to other stores that have been unresponsive, including Old Navy and Banana Republic.”
Reached for comment, a Macy’s spokeswoman said, “It is Macy’s desire to cooperate with the New York City Human Rights Commission. We have attempted to and are continuing to work toward an arrangement that satisfies the commission’s legitimate investigatory needs and protects our proprietary business interests. We are hopeful that we can reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement.”
Officials at Gap Inc., parent of Banana Republic and Old Navy, did not return a call seeking comment.
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On Nov. 20, Gatling testified at a City Council hearing that the commission had sent letters to 17 chief executive officers of the largest retail stores doing business in New York City, such as Sears, CVS, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, requesting information about their loss prevention policies and procedures for approaching and detaining individuals suspected of theft, as well as records regarding all individuals accused of theft in the past two years, and what, if any presence, NYPD officers have in the locations. During the hearing, Gatling said since 2002, 150 people have complained to the NYC Commission of Human Rights that they were discriminated against at New York City stores. These cases, which resulted in $134,000 in fines to the city and damages, weren’t about incarceration, but about their treatment, she said.
Gatling set a deadline of Nov. 22 to receive information from the retailers and said otherwise they would be subpoenaed. Last week, the commission said it had received information from many of the stores, including Macy’s and Barneys New York, but as it turned out, Macy’s missed the deadline and had not submitted its information by Nov. 27, when the subpoena was issued.
The commission’s probe is the result of alleged racial profiling at Barneys and Macy’s whereby three black shoppers were detained by the NYPD after making expensive purchases. The incidents have resulted in lawsuits against the retailers, city and New York Police Department, as well as an investigation by Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General. Macy’s and Barneys have maintained that their employees were not involved in stopping those shoppers.
Barneys issued an internal memo last week saying it will begin monitoring the police as they monitor shoppers at its Manhattan flagship, will keep a log of the officers who use the closed-circuit TVs in its security room and will use audio and video surveillance to monitor the security room.
A group of retailers and civil rights leaders, in conjunction with the Retail Council of New York and the New York Metropolitan Retailing Association, has formed a task force to work on racial profiling and loss prevention issues at New York’s stores.