Barneys has agreed to pay $525,000 to resolve allegations that minorities were singled out as suspected shoplifters at its flagship store, part of a spate of racial profiling complaints against major retailers last year.
Barneys shoppers and ex-employees complained that detectives followed minority customers around, even after staffers identified them as frequent patrons, and disproportionately investigated their credit-card use, to the point some salespeople avoided serving minority shoppers so as to avoid getting calls from store investigators, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in announcing the settlement Monday.
Besides the $525,000 in fines and expenses, Barneys will hire an “anti-profiling consultant” for two years, update its policy and record-keeping on detaining customers suspected of theft, and improve training of security and sales personnel.
Schneiderman’s investigation came after two Barney’s shoppers, both of whom are black, said last fall they were detained by police after making expensive purchases at the Madison Avenue luxury emporium.
Meanwhile, minority shoppers, including actor Rob Brown, made similar complaints last year against other New York stores including Macy’s, which had paid a $600,000 fine and promised changes in 2005 after the then-attorney general made similar claims. Macy’s and the “Treme” actor reached a settlement in principle last month in his federal civil rights suit, both sides said.
In December, Barney’s, Macy’s and several other retailers agreed to create and publicize a customer bill of rights. The Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network plans to send people into stores to spot-check compliance, he said Monday.