Attorney General Investigating Macy's And Barney's In Racial Profiling And Discrimination Suit; Rev. Sharpton To Meet With Barneys CEO

By  Oct 29, 2013 11:52 AM EDT
New York Attorney General Eric SchneidermanLetter to Barneys CEO Mark LeeLetter to Barneys CEO Mark LeeLetter to Macy's Cheif Store Officer Peter SachseLetter to Macy's Cheif Store Officer Peter Sachse
The New York Attorney General' Office is calling for luxury store Barneys to hand over information on all policies dealing with detaining and profiling of customers on Tuesday.

Eric Schneiderman, the New York State attorney general, is asking Macy's Inc. and Barneys New York Inc. to turn over information on store policies for stopping and detaining customers after racial complaints went public last week, Reuters reported.

African American or Latino customers have started to go public after 19-year-old Trayon Christian from Queens was detained for two hours after purchasing a $349 belt. A female shopper, also African American, was surrounded by undercover cops in the 59th and Lexington subway station after purchasing a $2,500 Celine bag, according to The Daily News.

At Macy's, two shoppers have made similar complaints, including actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme" who said he was stopped, handcuffed and held for over an hour after purchasing a $1,350 gold Movado watch for his mother, The Daily News reported.

Barneys Chief Executive Mark Lee is set to meet with the Rev. Al Sharpton on Tuesday to discuss the two racial discrimination accusations that went public last week, Reuters reported. The two will meet at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, Sharpton's civil rights group.

Schneiderman has sent letters to both Barneys Chief Executive and Macy's Chief Stores Officer Peter Sachse citing state and local laws prohibit "racial discrimination in places of public accommodation," and asking both stores submit its policies on stopping and detaining customers, the number of stop-and-frisks broken down by race in the last year, and all discrimination complaints filed by customers during that time, according to The Daily News.

Kristen Clarke, chief of the Civil Rights Bureau in Schneiderman's office, set the deadline for all information to be given to the attorneys office by Friday, and also asked for a review of the stores' anti-discrimination policies and information on contracts with agencies that provide store security, NBC News reported.

"Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law," Clarke wrote to Lee and Sachse in the letters. "The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal."

In a response to the suit, Barneys has hired a civil rights expert to review store procedures and practices, and Lee, Barneys CEO, has apologized in a statement saying "no customer should have the unacceptable experience" of being accosted by police after making a purchase, according to The DailyNews.

The fourth "shop and frisk" complaint was filed by Art Palmer, 56, an exercise trainer from Brooklyn, who said he was surrounded by police who demanded to see identification in April after he used his credit card to buy $320 worth of Polo shirts and ties, The Daily News reported.

Clark wrote in her letter to Macy's that these new allegations were "particularly troublesome" because of a 2005 lawsuit by the attorney general's office against the Herald Square store due to its profiling customers based on race, Reuters reported.

Macy's denied the wrong doing, but settled the case and agreed to stop racial profiling, paying $600,000 in damages to the plaintiffs, establish a security monitor position, create rules about handcuffing customers and to keep a log of all detentions, according to Reuters.

In the past two years, grand larceny has risen in the Midtown precinct where Macy's flagship store is located, and is up almost four percent at the 19th precinct where Barneys is located, Reuters reported.

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