National Jeweler Network

Public Policy & Issues

Barneys settles racial profiling cases

By Brecken Branstrator

August 12, 2014

New York--Barneys New York has reached an agreement that it will pay $525,000 and adopt new anti-profiling policies to settle the racial profiling cases against it, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.

The agreement follows a nine-month investigation by the attorney general’s office, launched last year after two African-American customers--Trayon Christian, 19, and Kayla Phillips, 21--alleged that they were falsely accused of credit card fraud while shopping at the retailer’s flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York City.

According to a statement released by Schneiderman’s office Monday, the office’s Civil Rights Bureau reviewed complaints from customers and former Barneys employees, complaints that included allegations the high-end retailer’s door guards identified minority customers exclusively. 

Other complaints were that in-store detectives followed minority customers around the store, even after employees identified them as regular customers, and that some sales associates avoided serving minority customers so they would not be contacted by loss-prevention employees seeking to investigate their use of credit cards.

The attorney general’s office also found that despite the fact that Barneys “maintained inadequate records of stops made by their loss-prevention employees,” existing records still showed a disproportionate number of African American and Latino customers being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud.

After the investigation, the attorney general’s office concluded that Barneys did not have comprehensive written policies regarding racial profiling, the use of objective, race-neutral criteria for investigating potential shoplifting and/or credit card fraud, the use of excessive force and handcuffs, or treatment of detainees.

Under the terms of the deal with the state, Barneys has agreed to retain an independent anti-profiling consultant with expertise in the prevention of racial profiling in loss prevention and asset protection.

The retailer also will establish new record-keeping requirements on investigations, detentions and false stops conducted by loss-prevention employees, limit access to its security cameras, adopt new loss-prevention detention policies and a new anti-profiling policy, and pay $525,000 in costs, fees and penalties.

“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,” 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.”

Barneys said in a statement, as reported by Women’s Wear Daily, that it was “pleased” with the settlement.

“During the entirety of our 90-year history, Barneys New York has prided itself on providing an unparalleled customer experience to every person that comes into contact with our brand--open and welcoming to one and all,” CEO Mark Lee said. “We are a truly progressive company that has absolutely no tolerance for discrimination of any kind, and believe this agreement will help build on that commitment and further strengthen our organization in the years and decades to come.”