New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating allegations that Barneys and Macy’s detain and question customers based on their race, the New York Daily News reports.
The attorney general asked Barneys and Macy’s to provide an array of information about the customers they stop and question, as well as information about their policies on detaining customers.
“Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law,” both letters stated. “The alleged repeated behavior of your employees raises questions about your company’s commitment to that ideal.”
Both Macy’s and Barneys are being sued by customers who believe they were racially profiled because the store stopped them after they legitimately purchased items there, ABC News reported. One of those suits was filed by 29-year-old “Treme” actor Robert Brown, an African-American who says the store “paraded” him around the store in handcuffs after he bought an expensive watch, according to ABC.
Last week, a 21-year-old black woman named Kayla Phillips came forward and said Barneys called the cops when she tried to buy a $2,500 handbag with her temporary debit card, the New York Post reported. A black college student also filed a lawsuit last week claiming Barneys reported him to the police after he bought an expensive belt. (That employee allegedly believed the purchase was fraudulent.)
The allegations against Macy’s are particularly bad since it’s been accused of racial profiling before, Schneiderman’s letter said.
Then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued Macy’s in 2005, claiming it discriminated against black and Hispanic customers, the Daily News noted. The suit was settled after Macy’s agreed to pay $600,000 and keep a record of all the people it has detained.
Macy’s released a statement in response to the “Treme” actor’s lawsuit, saying the store’s personnel “were not involved in Mr. Brown’s detention or questioning”, according to NBC New York. Macy’s said the actor’s detention was “an operation of the New York City Police Department”.
Barneys issued a statement last week saying that it hired a civil rights expert to review its policies. Barneys said “no customer should have the unacceptable experience of being confronted by the police while shopping”.