Barneys Agrees to Pay $525K in Racial Profiling Settlement

Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue

Barneys New York flagship on Madison Avenue where two of the profiling incidents allegedly occurred.

New York—The news reports last fall that African-American and Latino customers at Barneys were singled out for greater security surveillance were apparently true.

According to statement released today from New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following an investigation showed “disproportionate number of African-American and Latino customers being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud.”

The investigation, led by Schneiderman, showed a “disproportionate number of African-American and Latino customers being detained for alleged shoplifting or credit card fraud.”

“Profiling and racial discrimination remain a problem in our state, but not one we are willing to accept,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “This agreement will continue our work to ensure there’s one set of rules for everyone in public accommodations.”

Lawsuits Still Pending

Apparently as complainants told the attorney general office’s civil rights division, Barneys’s “loss prevention unit” made a habit of “keeping watch over black and Hispanic shoppers in disproportionate numbers.”

As a result, Barneys agreed to pay $525,000 in fine and legal expenses as well as hire an “anti-profiling consultant” for two years, to update its detention policy and to improve training of security and sales personnel.

“This agreement will correct a number of wrongs,” said Schneiderman, “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 incidents came to a head when Trayon Christian, a 19-year-old African American, said he purchased a Ferragamo belt with his Chase debit card and then was chased after and accused of stealing the belt by using a fake debit card.

NYPD officers handcuffed Christian and took him to the 19th Precinct station house where he was held, according to his lawsuit, for about two hours before being freed.

Another African American woman, Kayla Phillips, 21, said was “stopped, frisked, searched and detained” by the police at Barneys after she bought a Celine handbag valued at more than $2,000.

In both cases, no charges were filed, and both customers filed lawsuits against the store and the NYPD. The suits are pending.

Last year Change.org started a petition sign asking Jay Z to quit his relationship with Barneys New York

Last year Change.org started a petition sign asking Jay Z to quit his relationship with Barneys New York

As a result of these and other incidents that have been investigated, a 27-page settlement was signed by both parties on Friday. Schneiderman released a series of findings from a nine-month review based on interviews with nearly a dozen complainants in the so-called shop-and-frisk case, including shoppers and former employees.

In both cases, no charges were filed, and both customers filed lawsuits against the store and the NYPD. The suits are pending.

“This agreement will correct a number of wrongs,” said Schneiderman, “both by fixing past policies and by monitoring the actions of Barneys and its employees to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated.”

Macy’s Next?

Schneiderman is also investigation Macy’s for similar incidents.

Speaking about the agreement, Barneys CEO Mark Lee said his stores would be stronger now.

“We are a truly progressive company that has absolutely no tolerance for discrimination of any kind,” he said.

Meanwhile, major retailers such as Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue have posted signs stating that “profiling is an unacceptable price and will not be tolerated.” Employees who violate the promise are subject to disciplinary action and even termination, the stores stated.

Like this? Share it!


Jeff Prine, Editor at Large, Accessories Magazine
Jeff returns as a regular contributor to Accessories magazine. Initially Jeff worked as senior editor at Accessories more than 20 years ago and his love of the industry has followed him until present. Since his tenure here, Jeff has continued to report jewelry, watch and other luxury goods trends as executive editor at Modern Jeweler magazine, fashion director at Lustre, and as contributor on products and trends for consumer and trade publications and websites. In addition to his editorial experience, Jeff also served as an adjunct instructor for accessories merchandising at Fashion Institute of Technology. jeffp@busjour.com