Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Racial profiling has recently become even more of a cause for concern in NYC department stores, most notably Barney’s and Macy’s. However, it’s not just the PR battle that major retailers are facing; those who feel they have been discriminated against are now becoming litigious.
Actor Rob Brown has filed suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, claiming Macy’s falsely detained him as a result of racial profiling. In the filing, Brown said he wishes to bring a class action lawsuit against the company for repeated profiling.
Brown, who stars in the HBO show “Treme”, claims he was detained in October after purchasing a watch in the company’s New York City flagship store. He says that in a back room, an undercover police officer accused him of giving a false name and attempting to commit credit card fraud. When the police recognized their mistake, they offered to escort him to his next destination in a police car with flashing lights.
“If he wasn't Rob Brown, the actor, and he was just some person of color off the street, he would have been kept there, handed over to the police and charged with a crime he didn't commit and put into the criminal justice system,” said Brown's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor.
According to an interview New York TV station Pix11 around the time of the profiling, Brown said, “I had plenty of ID on me, plenty.” And when asked why he was detained, Brown said, “I think it’s because I’m black.”
Macy’s and the New York Police Department both deny any wrongdoing. A Macy’s spokesman issued a statement after the filing, saying, “We cannot comment on pending litigation. We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including racial profiling.”
This isn’t the first time Macy’s has faced a class action racial profiling suit. In 2005, the store paid the state of New York $600,000 to settle a similar class action lawsuit. And if this case wasn’t déjà vu enough, the lead counsel in that decision, Douglas Wigdor, has now been retained as Brown’s lead counsel in the new case.
Pix11 says that not much has changed on the Macy’s side from the earlier dispute, either. One of the defendants from the earlier case, Thomas Roan, is listed again on Brown’s suit. Roan is Macy’s Group Vice President of Loss Prevention.
Class action lawsuits are a major problem for in-house counsel. For more class action stories, check out these InsideCounsel pieces: