New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched investigations into the complaints about racial profiling at Barneys and Macy's; in the past week, four people have come forward and claimed that they were stopped and detained at the luxury department stores for, essentially, buying expensive things while not being white. Because our justice system has not yet recognized brief Facebook apology as an appropriate punishment for violating anti-discrimination law, the AG's office is stepping in.
According to letters obtained by the New York Daily News, both companies may have violated state and local civil rights laws that prohibit "racial discrimination in places of public accommodation." As such, the retailers have until Friday to provide a slew of information to the Office of the Attorney General, including: the total number of stops and detentions of customers by race and national origin in the past year, all documents pertaining to stops and detentions, all customer discrimination complaints received in the past year, store policies regarding the stopping, detaining and questioning of customers and store policies about contacting law enforcement regarding customers.
The letters were written by Kristen Clarke, who heads the AG's civil rights bureau; they were addressed to Peter Sachse, the Chief Stores Officer of Macy's East, and Mark Lee, the Chief Executive Officer of Barneys New York. "Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to ensuring that all New York residents are afforded equal protection under the law," wrote Clarke in both. "The alleged repeated conduct of your employees raises troubling questions about your company's commitment to that ideal, and the company's compliance with state and local civil rights laws."
The allegations that Macy's East falsely accused an African-American customer of committing credit card fraud are "particularly troublesome," notes Clarke, because the company was sued by the state attorney general's office for racial profiling in 2005. Following that federal lawsuit, the company paid $600,000 in damages and agreed to keep a database of all detention records. Has Macy's learned anything? Apparently not.
A Macy's spokeswoman says that she's unaware of the letter, and Barneys did not respond to NYDN for comment.
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