A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Barneys New York To Address Discrimination Against Customers

Barneys To Prevent Racial Profiling By Retaining An Anti-Profiling Consultant, Adopting New Loss Prevention Policies And Procedures, And Training Its Employees

Schneiderman: Profiling And Racial Discrimination Remain A Problem In Our State, But One We Are Not Willing To Accept

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Barneys New York that will help ensure that customers, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have equal access to its stores throughout New York. This agreement follows a nine-month-long investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, which was launched after two African-American customers alleged they were falsely accused of credit card fraud while shopping at Barneys’ flagship store.

“Profiling and racial discrimination remain a problem in our state, but not one we are willing to accept. This agreement will continue our work to ensure there’s one set of rules for everyone in public accommodations, including customers in New York’s retail establishments,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “This agreement will correct a number of wrongs, both by fixing past policies and by monitoring the actions of Barneys and its employees to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated.”

The Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau reviewed several complaints from customers and former Barneys employees. The complaints alleged that:

  • Door guards identified minority customers exclusively as warranting surveillance;
  • In-store detectives followed minority customers, even when the customers had been identified by sales associates as clients and frequent patrons of the store; 
  • In-store detectives disproportionately asked sales associates to reprint receipts after minority customers made purchases in order to confirm the purchases were legitimate; 
  • In-store detectives disproportionately called sales associates who handled and completed minority customers’ transactions in order to investigate the customers’ credit card use; and 
  • Some sales associates avoided serving minority customers so they would not be contacted by loss-prevention employees seeking to investigate the use of credit cards by minority customers. 

Additionally, the Attorney General found that Barneys 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.

After its investigation, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau concluded that Barneys did not have comprehensive written policies regarding racial profiling; use of objective, race-neutral criteria for investigating potential shoplifting and/or credit card fraud; use of excessive force and handcuffs, or treatment of detainees. The Bureau also concluded that Barneys lacked consistent recordkeeping policies with respect to stops and detentions made by its loss-prevention employees or by local law enforcement. 

Under the terms of the agreement, Barneys will:

  • Retain an independent anti-profiling consultant with expertise in the prevention of racial profiling in loss prevention and asset protection; 
  • Establish new recordkeeping requirements on investigations, detentions and false stops conducted by loss-prevention employees;
  • Limit access to its closed-circuit TV areas by local law enforcement officers and maintain records of visits by local law enforcement officers;
  • Adopt new loss-prevention detention policies and a new anti-profiling policy;
  • Develop and conduct anti-profiling training for loss-prevention and sales employees;
  • Investigate customer complaints of profiling; and 
  • Pay $525,000 in costs, fees, and penalties.

"As the Public Advocate, an attorney, and former Assistant Attorney General, I appreciate the serious need to protect workers and consumers from abuse and bias. I commend Attorney General Schneiderman and his staff for their diligent work in reaching this settlement.  We must continue to be vigilant and make sure that no business, no matter how large or small, discriminates against customers," said New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. 

Assemblyman Karim Camara said, "Every citizen is entitled to equal protection under the law, plain and simple. This basic fact cannot be forgotten, especially in New York, which so many people from different backgrounds call home. This agreement is an effort to correct past injustices, and I believe it will do just that. Eric Schneiderman and the Office of the Attorney General should be commended for their fine work."

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.,said, “One of the most significant problems we face today concerns racial profiling of African-Americans and Latinos. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stands as one of our most important tools for confronting those problems that persist in the public accommodations context. I thank the Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau for working to ensure that the doors of our public establishments are equally open to all, regardless of race.”

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez and Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Matthew Lemle Amsterdam of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.

The Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting all New Yorkers from unlawful discrimination. To file a civil rights complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Office at (212) 416-8250, civil.rights@ag.ny.gov or visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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