Another big American retail brand reaches a settlement in a racial profiling case

Shoppers complained of mistreatment at the Macy’s flagship in Manhattan.
Shoppers complained of mistreatment at the Macy’s flagship in Manhattan.
Image: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

After a high-profile investigation that lasted 18 months, Macy’s today agreed to pay $650,000 to settle a racial profiling case and will hire an independent monitor to address complaints from minority shoppers.

The New York state attorney general’s office opened the investigation in February 2013, after receiving reports from customers who said they faced heightened surveillance from clerks and security officers at the Macy’s flagship department store at Herald Square in Manhattan. Some of the shoppers were wrongfully detained. The issue attracted public attention when it was discovered that one of the shoppers alleging unfair treatment was Robert Brown, an American actor known for his work on the HBO series Treme.

State attorney general Eric Schneiderman said in a press statement that an inquiry found that Macy’s had “detained African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities for allegedly shoplifting at significantly higher rates relative to whites.” He continued: “It is absolutely unacceptable—and it’s illegal—for anyone in New York to be treated like a criminal simply because of the color of their skin.” Macy’s has not responded to requests for a comment.

Schneiderman’s office reached a similar settlement last week with Barneys New York, the luxury retail chain, which agreed to pay $525,000 and bring in an anti-profiling consultant after being accused of racially profiling customers at its own flagship store in Manhattan.

Brown filed his own racial discrimination lawsuit against both Macy’s and the New York City Police Department last year after he was allegedly handcuffed in June 2013 at the Herald Square store and taken by police officers. The police and store personnel accused Brown of using a fake credit card. Brown settled the case last month.