A Korean-American woman is suing the CVS drugstore chain, alleging a store employee used an ethnic slur to refer to her on a receipt.
The plaintiff, Hyun Jin Lee of Egg Harbor, filed the action in U.S. District Court in Camden on Tuesday and is demanding $1 million in damages.
Lee alleges she went to the CVS in Pomona on Feb. 7 to pick up photographs she had left to be processed. A CVS employee entered "Ching Chong" Lee as the name on the receipt.
"Ching Chong" is a pejorative term used to describe people of Asian descent, says Lee’s attorney, New York solo Susan Chana Lask.
Seeing that name on the receipt left Lee "shocked, stunned, mortified, humiliated and severely distressed," the lawsuit says.
Lee sent a written complaint to CVS’s customer relations office, saying: "Does the name in any way match my name? I had ordered online with MY name!!! And why in the world would the clerk change my name? Do you think it’s funny? It’s very disturbing to me!!!"
A CVS customer service specialist identified as "Dee" responded on April 4, saying the matter would be addressed at the local store and that the employee would receive training and counseling.
"That’s not enough," Lask says, adding that the employee should have been fired. "She was just sort of laughed out of the store. She should not have been treated in this intolerable way."
The suit alleges employees at the Pomona store have been entering ethnic slurs and racial epithets into the computer-generated receipts for some time.
"This shocking discrimination aimed at Plaintiff is unacceptable in any place of public accommodation, and a civilized society cannot tolerate such behavior," the lawsuit says.
"Rather than operate within the requirements of the law and within social boundaries of common decency, CVS created and maintained an objectively abusive and hostile environment for Plaintiff based solely on her race and continues to do so by permitting John Doe to remain in the particular store which essentially ratifies forcibly removing Plaintiff from that store because of her race.
"This act and the following acts of ratifying the bias was deliberately calculated to make Plaintiff’s experience so intolerable and unequal as to bar her and others similarly situated from the premises in the future in the same manner as if she had been forcibly removed."
The lawsuit says Lee has been unable to sleep and has suffered embarrassment, loss of enjoyment of life, alienation and mental anguish.
The suit, Lee v. CVS Caremark Corp., 1:13-cv-02432-RBK-AMD, alleges violations of federal anti-discrimination laws, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and infliction of emotional distress.
It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler and U.S. Magistrate Ann Marie Donio.
Lask says she will handle the case pro hac vice. She has retained Belmar solo Stephanie Hunnell as local counsel.
A CVS spokesman, Michael DeAngelis, issued a statement in response to the lawsuit.
CVS, he said, is "committed to treating all of our customers with dignity and respect and we have a firm nondiscrimination policy. We take this matter very seriously as the allegations in the complaint describe behavior that is unacceptable and not in keeping with our values or our policies.
"We are looking into this matter but cannot comment further due to the pending litigation."