New York Department store Barneys has been ordered to pay $525,000 in fees and penalties in relation to racial profiling allegations brought against the store last year. According to WWD, the store must also introduce a series of objectives, including the appointment of an independent anti-profiling consultant experienced in the prevention of racial profiling, the implementation of anti-profiling training for loss-prevention and sales employees and fully investigating all customer complaints of racial profiling.
Trayon Christian filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan last October against Barneys, the city and the NYPD. According to Christian, he shopped at Barneys on April 29 and bought a $350 Ferragamo belt. After leaving the store, he was stopped by undercover NYPD officers, who said someone at the store had raised concerns over the sale. Following this, another shopper, Kayla Phillips, a nursing student from Brooklyn, told reporters that she had a similar experience after purchasing a $2,500 Céline handbag at the store last February.
The lawsuit and subsequent media coverage were a PR nightmare for Barneys. CEO Mark Lee agreed to meet with representatives from the Brooklyn chapter of Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to discuss claims of racial profiling by the two shoppers at the retailer’s Madison Avenue flagship store. Lee also released the following statement on the company’s Facebook page in a desperate attempt to limit the damage;
“Barneys New York believes that no customer should have the unacceptable experience described in recent media reports, and we offer our sincere regret and deepest apologies. Further to our statement of yesterday, we want to reinforce that Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination. We are a strong proponent of equal rights and equal treatment for all human beings. Our mission is to ensure that all customers receive the highest-quality service — without exception. To this end, we are conducting a thorough review of our practices and procedures as they relate to these matters to ensure that they reflect our continued commitment fairness and equality.”
Following a nine-month investigation, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman has concluded that Barney’s ”maintained inadequate records of stops made by their loss-prevention employees, but despite these lapses, existing records showed a disproportionate number of African-American and Latino customers being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud”.
Barneys isn’t the first retailer to be accused of racism. In August last year, a former staff member of Louis Vuitton’s Selfridges concession accused the store of sexism and racism in an employment tribunal and Alexander McQueen found itself at the centre of two lawsuits concerning racial abuse in 2013!