Late in 2013, retailers Macy's and Barneys New York both came under fire from customers who alleged that they had been the victims of racial profiling practices. Barneys announced on August 11 that it would be settling the charges with a payment of $525k, and today it was announced Macy's would be following suit.
A press release posted to the New York Attorney General's page says that Macy's will pay $650,000 in penalties and fees to settle the case. Reports had surfaced that the retailer was not cooperative with the Attorney General's office, failing to meet set deadlines for turning over internal policies. This is the second time in a decade that Macy's has settled on similar charges: In 2005, the brand paid $600,000 in fines, bringing the total amount to just over $1 million in racial profile-related penalties.
The Attorney General's office "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."
As a result, Macy's has also agreed to several terms in addition to the fine, including posting Customers’ Bill of Rights in prominent locations in its New York stores and online, as well as training employees to recognize and avoid profiling practices (the full list of terms can be found at the Attorney General's website). The retailer entered a similar agreement in the 2005 case, the terms of which expired in 2008.
In the wake of current events in Ferguson, Missouri, these settlements seem especially relevant. It's been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed, but today's headlines don't seem much different than they did in 1964. It's time for everyone -- including the fashion industry -- to do better. A settlement is a step in the right direction, but it is not a bandaid; one hopes that the retailer will also change itself from within, with or without the prompting of the New York Attorney General.