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Barneys agrees to more than half-million dollar payment to settle racial profiling lawsuit

(August 11, 2014) Retailer Barneys has agreed to pay $525,000 to resolve allegations that minorities were singled out as suspected shoplifters at its flagship store, part of a spate of racial profiling complaints against major retailers last year.

Barneys shoppers and ex-employees complained that detectives followed minority customers around -- even after staffers identified them as frequent patrons -- and disproportionately investigated their credit-card use, so much so that some salespeople even avoided serving minority shoppers so as to avoid getting calls from store investigators, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in announcing the settlement Monday.

Besides the $525,000 in fines and expenses, Barneys will hire an "anti-profiling consultant" for two years, update its policy and record-keeping on detaining customers suspected of theft, and improve training of security and sales personnel.

"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," Schneiderman said in a release.

"I feel very vindicated today," said shopper Kayla Phillips in a statement released by her lawyer, Kareem R. Vessup. "Finally, Barneys appears to have conceded that they unreasonably followed, stopped and detained people who look just like me in their stores,"

Phillips, who is black, came forward last fall to say she was surrounded by police officers upon leaving the store after buying a $2,500 handbag in February 2013 with a temporary debit card. Police ultimately let her go.

Barneys CEO Mark Lee said in a statement that the company was pleased with the settlement. "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," Lee's statement said.

- From Associated Press

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