MACY’S WEST SETTLES TWO SUITS

Byline: Kristin Young

LOS ANGELES — To help settle a lawsuit, Macy’s West has agreed to make store entrances, restrooms, cashwraps and main aisles more accessible to disabled customers and pay $3 million to 10 plaintiffs.
The actions partially settle two five-year-old class-action lawsuits in which a San Francisco federal judge found that Macy’s Union Square flagship and a Macy’s in Sacramento violated state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination against disabled individuals.
A third lawsuit involving all stores state-wide was filed in 1998. All three lawsuits were combined and brought before federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California.
The settlement has yet to be approved by the courts. A hearing is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2002.
“We’re extremely pleased with the commitment Macy’s has made in agreeing with this settlement and we think it will provide enormous improvement for the shopability of Macy’s West stores in California for people with disabilities,” said Melissa Kasnitz, a staff attorney with Disability Rights Advocates, which brought the case forward on behalf of the plaintiffs. “We hope all retailers look to this as an example and recognize their obligation to provide accessible features and make efforts to do that without litigation.”
The settlement affects 70 Macy’s West stores in California but no other units of the parent Federated Department Stores. Macy’s West operates 137 stores located in the Southwest, the West, Hawaii and Guam.
Macy’s West chairman and chief executive officer Jeremiah Sullivan said in a statement that changes already made in stores and upcoming changes under the settlement will improve the shopping experience for customers with disabilities.
If the settlement is approved by the courts, consumers with disabilities will be entitled to submit claims between $1,000 and $5,000 for each incident they’ve encountered with Macy’s. The claims will account for $2.8 million of the $3 million purse. Macy’s will make half the payments in cash; half in gift certificates. The remaining $200,000 will be split between the 10 disabled plaintiffs and some charities.
Among the changes, Macy’s will clear out display cases in main aisles, keep the aisles at least 32 inches wide, and train employees to help customers with disabilities get to merchandise. The parties are still working to resolve whether pathways in smaller merchandise areas, some with moveable display racks, are also wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the plaintiffs plan to litigate in court, said Kasnitz.

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