Following allegations that it intentionally profiled and discriminated against African-American shoppers, high-end retailer Barneys New York found itself on the high-end of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s anti-profiling investigation list. And on August 11, the AG’s office announced that it had reached an understanding with Barneys, with the retailer agreeing to hire outside anti-profiling consultants and to pay $525,000 in cost fees and penalties.
The allegations against the store were brought by two shoppers in late 2013 and alleged that the retailer falsely accused them of credit card fraud. Additional complaints that followed the investigation included allegations that door guards identified minority customers exclusively as warranting surveillance, in-store detectives followed minority customers even when the customers had been identified by sales associates, and that store detectives disproportionately called sales associates who handled and completed minority customers’ transactions in order to investigate the customers’ credit card use.
The complaints launched a nine month long investigation, which found that the company had kept poor records of incidents involving their loss-prevention staff. What the AG’s Civil Right Bureau did find, however, was that a disproportionate number of black and Latino shoppers has been detained by for alleged shoplifting and credit card fraud. Adding fuel to the allegations, the company did not have written policies that decried the use of discriminatory profiling methods by security guards or the use of excessive force in handling the incidents.
As a result of the findings of the investigation, Barneys has agree to retain a consultant to aid in the prevention of the racial profiling issues, as well as adopt new loss-prevention detention policies and a new anti-profiling policy. In addition, the company will also pay fines associated with the use of such practices.
“Profiling and racial discrimination remain a problem in our state, but not one we are willing to accept. This agreement will continue our work to ensure there’s one set of rules for everyone in public accommodations, including customers in New York’s retail establishments,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This agreement will correct a number of wrongs, both by fixing past policies and by monitoring the actions of Barneys and its employees to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Barneys’ Chief Executive said that the company "has absolutely no tolerance for discrimination of any kind."