NEW YORK — Macy’s Inc. has reached an agreement with the New York State Attorney General resolving more than a dozen recent complaints of profiling and false detentions at the Macy’s Herald Square flagship in Manhattan.
This story first appeared in the August 21, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Under the settlement, Macy’s will pay $650,000 in costs, fees and penalty to New York State, and has agreed to take several steps to help prevent cases of profiling in the future at Macy’s 42 stores in the state. Macy’s said it will initiate new training programs for loss prevention and sales associates, and that in addition to reaching a resolution with the attorney general on the allegations of racial profiling, said it also settled in principle various lawsuits related to these allegations.
“To be clear, our company’s policies strictly prohibit any form of discrimination or racial profiling and any occurrence of such behavior will not be tolerated in our organization,” Macy’s said Wednesday. “Moving forward, our company will be initiating a series of measures including enhanced training and education for our loss prevention and sales associates. We also will be adopting an expanded role for our security monitor to help ensure that we have the right policies and procedures in place, and that we are constantly reviewing our compliance with them.”
Macy’s defended its record on diversity, stating it was among the first retail companies to establish “a strong position on diversity and inclusion. We have a proven track record of reflecting the diverse communities we serve in every aspect of our business — including hiring, associate development, purchasing, community support, visual presentation and advertising. Our plans for moving forward further reinforce that commitment.”
Earlier this month, Barneys New York, after a similar profiling incident allegedly occurred at its Madison Avenue flagship, agreed to retain an antiprofiling consultant, establish new record-keeping requirements, adopt new loss-prevention policies and procedures, and pay $525,000 in costs, fees and penalties.
“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,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Wednesday. “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.”
The Civil Rights Bureau launched an investigation into Macy’s in February 2013, responding to complaints from close to two dozen African-Americans, Latinos and others shopping Macy’s. They claimed they were apprehended and detained despite not having stolen or attempting to steal any merchandise.
The complainants also stated that Macy’s accused minorities of committing crimes at far greater rates than white customers and that customers with limited English proficiency suspected of shoplifting or credit-card fraud were not permitted to make phone calls, were denied interpreters and were required to sign trespass notices written in English, which they couldn’t understand.
The attorney general’s office also met with former Macy’s sales representatives for the Herald Square flagship who alleged that loss-prevention employees at the store tracked and followed black, Latino and other minority customers much more frequently than white customers.
Under the agreement, Macy’s, among other steps designed to prevent profiling incidents in the future, agreed to:
• Designate an independent expert on antidiscrimination laws and prevention of racial profiling in retail loss prevention, who will report to the attorney general’s office.
• Prominently post its customers’ bill of rights in English and Spanish at its New York stores and on its Web site.
• Establish new record-keeping requirements on apprehensions, non-productive detentions and customer interactions conducted by loss prevention employees.
• Adopt new policies regarding antiprofiling, loss-prevention detention and access to Macy’s closed-circuit television rooms by external law enforcement officers.
• Train employees on antiprofiling and how to properly investigate and interview suspects, and treat anybody it detains.
The settlement triggered a flurry of reaction from politicians. Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D., Brooklyn) said the Macy’s settlement “will go a long way towards ending profiling in Macy’s and sends a powerful antidiscriminatory message to the business community throughout the city.”
Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley (D., Brooklyn) said: “I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his office for not only coming down hard on retailers who engage in profiling, but also ensuring there is a set of protocols certain to bring about a level of accountability and transparency in the future.”
One of those who complained, actor Rob Brown, and his attorney Douglas Wigdor issued a joint statement: “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.” Brown filed suit against Macy’s after being stopped by the NYPD in June following the purchase of a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother.