EX-WORKER TESTIFIES AT BAUER BIAS TRIAL
Byline: Jennifer Owens
GREENBELT, Md. — In the second day of a civil suit against Eddie Bauer Inc., a former assistant store manager who traveled to the retailer’s temporary warehouse sales claimed Thursday that her superiors routinely discriminated against minority customers.
Mary Addi, who worked for Eddie Bauer for eight months beginning in August 1995, said managers at warehouse sales in Salt Lake City and Toronto targeted minority customers for close surveillance. In Toronto, she said, managers took an Eddie Bauer coat away from two Asian teenagers, who then returned later with a receipt for it. A similar incident is the basis of the civil suit now being heard in the U.S. District Court here.
In the case, Alonzo Jackson, now 18, says that during an Oct. 20, 1995, shopping trip to a temporary warehouse sale in Prince George’s County, Md., he was ordered by a white security guard to produce a receipt for an Eddie Bauer shirt he had purchased the day before and was then wearing. Jackson, who is black, was accompanied by two black teenage friends who say they were detained by a second white security guard. The two friends, Rasheed Plummer and Marco Cunningham, are also plaintiffs in the $85 million suit, which charges Eddie Bauer with false imprisonment, defamation, negligent supervision and, in the case of Jackson, violation of the Civil Rights Act.
Lawyers for Eddie Bauer sought on Thursday to show Robert Sheehan, the security guard who stopped Jackson, acted on his own volition and without direction from a store manager, as required by company policy. Sheehan testified that store managers did not offer any profile of a typical shoplifter. On the day in question, however, Sheehan said one manager did alert him to someone wearing an Eddie Bauer shirt that “looked like it just came out of a box. They made the call when they came to me and told me about it.”
Once Sheehan stopped Jackson, the officer said, he suggested talking to the cashier, whom Jackson said he recognized from the day before. “She didn’t remember the transaction,” Sheehan said, adding that Jackson volunteered to take off the shirt.
Addi, whose testimony was read to the jury, did not work the Prince George’s County sale, but said she saw managers alert security guards to follow black customers at a sale in Salt Lake City.
Addi said she relayed her concerns to her superiors on numerous occasions, eventually speaking with the company’s corporate counsel in response to an internal request for comment once Jackson’s story came to light.