NEW YORK — In a Barneys New York-commissioned review, San Francisco attorney Michael Yaki found that the retailers’ employees did not “request, require, nor initiate,” any police action against two African-American customers who claimed they were wrongly accused of credit card fraud.
This story first appeared in the November 20, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In a report released Tuesday, Yaki found that no Barneys employees determined that either Kayla Phillips or Trayon Christian should be questioned by the New York Police Department about their Barneys’ purchases, or took any action “evidencing a belief or suspicion that either had committed or may have committed any illegal act that required or requested intervention by either Barneys’ Loss Prevention staff or the NYPD.”
Yaki, who serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, was asked to conduct an independent internal review of both incidents at Barneys, which involved reviewing employee statements and interviewing employees. The report also concluded that there is no written or unwritten policy “to engage in racial profiling in the Loss Prevention department. To the contrary, the Loss Prevention department has a formal antiracial profiling policy,” Yaki found.
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As reported, last month, Christian, 19, filed a discrimination lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan Monday against Barneys, the city and the NYPD. According to the lawsuit, Christian shopped at Barneys on April 29 and bought a $350 Ferragamo belt. After leaving the store, he was accosted by undercover NYPD officers, who said someone at the store had raised concerns over the sale. Phillips, 21, said she had a similar experience after purchasing a $2,500 Céline handbag at the store in February, and has filed a $5 million notice of claim against the NYPD.
According to Yaki’s report, in Christian’s case, officers were in Barneys’ security control room (for an arrest of another individual charged with credit card fraud) when Christian’s transaction occurred and they believed he was being “too fast” in his transaction and it could be fraudulent. They went to stop him before he left, although Barneys employees didn’t think there was a reason to detain him. In Phillips’ case, officers (who periodically drop by the store unscheduled, the review claims) watched her on camera. The sales associate who waited on her didn’t recall anything unusual about her transaction.
An NYPD law department spokeswoman said, “We will review these legal claims.” According to an Associated Press report, “In both instances, NYPD officers were conducting unrelated investigations and took action after conferring with Barneys employees while in their security room,” said John McCarthy, the police department’s chief spokesman.
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Barneys has maintained that store employees weren’t involved in detaining the shoppers. “Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. While all of our investigations have been consistent in finding that no Barneys New York employee was involved in either of the deplorable situations concerning Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, an issue exists in our industry, and we intend to be part of the solution. As we have stated all along, if we learn any procedures or practices are not consistent with our zero-tolerance policy, we will immediately take corrective action, including terminating those employees responsible,” according to Barneys.