A.G. Schneiderman Announces Agreement With Macy's To Prevent Discrimination Against Customers

Settlement Secures Comprehensive Relief Following 16-Month Investigation Of Department Store Into Claims By More Than A Dozen Customers Of Racial Profiling And False Detentions By Consumers; Macy’s To Pay $650K

Schneiderman: Profiling And Discrimination Are Illegal In New York; Retailers Must Treat Customers Equally

NEW YORK -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced an agreement with Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc., addressing more than a dozen recent complaints of profiling and false detentions at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square. The agreement will help ensure that all customers, regardless of their race or ethnicity, are treated equally at the retail giant’s 42 New York State stores. The settlement, which requires that Macy’s pay $650,000, is the second agreement reached this month by the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau with a retail establishment in New York City -- and comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The half-century-old federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in public accommodations.  

“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,” Attorney General Schneidermansaid. “Recent allegations of racial profiling at some of New York’s most famous stores stand as a stark reminder that the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are still needed today – and that equal justice under law remains an American ideal we are striving to attain. This agreement will help ensure that no one is unfairly singled out as a suspected criminal when they shop in New York and that all New Yorkers enjoy full and equal access to our retail establishments.”

The Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into Macy’s in February 2013, when it received several complaints regarding minority customers. The office has received complaints from close to two dozen African-American, Latino and other customers who are members of ethnic minority groups who claimed that they had been apprehended and detained at Macy’s, despite not having stolen or having attempted to steal any Macy’s merchandise. The consumers alleged they were racially profiled; that officials at the store, located at 151 West 34th Street, detained and falsely accused minorities at far greater rates than white customers of committing crimes, and that Macy’s was engaging in improper apprehensions and detentions.  

The complaints alleged, among other things, that minority customers were wrongly stopped and detained by loss prevention employees of the store after traveling between floors by escalator with unconcealed merchandise, despite having no intention of shoplifting, and that customers with limited English proficiency suspected of shoplifting or credit card fraud were not permitted to make phone calls, were denied access to an interpreter, and were required to sign trespass notices even though they could not understand the notices in English.  

In addition to reviewing complaints by customers, the Attorney General’s Office met with former Macy’s sales representatives for the Herald Square department store who alleged that loss prevention employees at the store tracked and followed African -American, Latino, and other minority customers much more frequently than white customers.  Finally, the Attorney General’s review of data produced by Macy’s showed that Macy’s investigated and detained minorities for allegedly shoplifting at significantly higher rates than whites.  

In January 2005, Macy’s entered into a consent decree with the Attorney General’s Office to resolve allegations that its asset protection policies and practices, including its handcuffing policies, violated various anti-discrimination laws. The terms of that agreement ended in 2008.  Despite improvements in some areas and the continuation of certain consent decree reforms, the Attorney General’s investigation found that Macy’s was continuing to stop and detain a higher percentage of its minority shoppers than non-minority shoppers. 

As a result of the current investigation, the Attorney General concluded that Macy’s has failed to take appropriate steps to adequately and quickly address profiling issues at its New York stores, that Macy’s failed to provide loss prevention employees with sufficient guidance or training on when to make proper detentions, and that Macy’s lacked comprehensive data collection and recordkeeping on its employees’ interactions with customers suspected of theft or credit card fraud.

Under the terms of the agreement, Macy’s will:

  • Designate an independent expert on anti-discrimination laws and prevention of racial profiling in retail loss prevention who will report to the Attorney General’s Office on compliance by Macy’s with the agreement for three years; 
     
  • Employ an internal full-time security monitor who will report to an executive outside of Macy’s Loss Prevention Department, monitor Macy’s loss prevention policies and practices, and be responsible for ensuring compliance with the terms of this settlement; 
     
  • Post its Customers’ Bill of Rights, in English and Spanish, in a prominent location, accessible to the public, in each of its stores in the State of New York and on the Macy’s, Inc. website;
     
  • Establish new recordkeeping requirements on apprehensions, non-productive detentions, and customer interactions conducted by loss prevention employees throughout all New York stores, as well as on reports and tips made by sales employees at the Herald Square store; 
     
  • Adopt new policies regarding anti-profiling, loss prevention detention, and access to Macy’s closed-circuit television rooms by external law enforcement officers;
     
  • Train employees on topics such as anti-profiling, proper loss prevention investigatory and interview tactics, and best practices with respect to the treatment of detainees in custody;
     
  • Investigate customer complaints alleging unreasonable detentions, racial profiling or racial discrimination; and 
     
  • Pay $650,000 in costs, fees, and penalties to New York State.

This matter is part of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau’s ongoing initiative to combat profiling at retail establishments across New York State.  The initiative recently resulted in an agreement with Barneys New York. That agreement required Barneys to, among other things, retain an anti-profiling consultant, establish new recordkeeping requirements, adopt new loss prevention policies and procedures, and pay $525,000 in costs, fees and penalties.

Further information about the Barney’s agreement is available here.

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams (D-Brooklyn), deputy leader and chair of the New York City Council’s Housing & Buildings Committee,said, “I want to applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for his leadership and continuous work to end the bias-based profiling that occurred at Macy’s. My office is also working to legislatively address these practices. Today’s announcement will go a long way towards ending profiling in Macy’s, and sends a powerful anti-discriminatory message to the business community throughout the city.” 

New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) said, “Discrimination is wrong. Period. And it is unacceptable that every day thousands of New Yorkers are forced to endure racial discrimination in their daily lives. Hopefully, today's agreement will send a strong message to anyone who would discriminate that their actions have consequences, and they will be held accountable. I commend Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for reaching this settlement that not only brings justice to victims of past discrimination, but also strives to prevent future ones from taking place.” 

Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley (D-Brooklyn) said, “Retailers have a responsibility to the community it serves to treat every customer with the same high level of respect and dignity.  When they engage in retail profiling, they are engaging in racism.  This is why I introduced legislation in the State Assembly to ban this reprehensible practice.  Today, I applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his office for not only coming down hard on retailers who engage in profiling, but also ensuring there is a set of protocols certain to bring about a level of accountability and transparency in the future.”

Actor Rob Brown and Douglas Wigdor said, "It is our hope that based on this agreement, as well as our individual agreement, that retailers will treat their customers with dignity and respect regardless of the color of their skin or ethnicity."

Barbara R. Arnwine, president & executive director of the national Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said, “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is one of our nation’s most important and powerful federal civil rights statutes.  Title II of that law ensures that public accommodations, including retailers, make their doors open equally to all consumers regardless of race. Everyone deserves the right to shop at retail stores without being subjected to unlawful harassment and discrimination and today’s agreement underscores these important rights."

“Racial profiling is a form of discrimination that usually draws attention only when the results turn tragic. But the degradation and humiliation of profiling is reinforced daily in interactions on the street, in airports, and in retail stores. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination in public accommodations under the fundamental principle that underscores our nation's long civil rights struggle -- equal opportunity for all. I thank the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau for enforcing the guarantees of this important law and the rights of all people to live, work, and enjoy public accommodation free of the burden of profiling,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Dariely Rodriguez and Kristen Clarke, chief of the Attorney General Schneiderman’s Civil Rights Bureau. 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.govor visit www.ag.ny.gov.

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