Barneys settles racial-profiling allegations

Barneys settles racial-profiling allegations, promises to hire consultant and change policies

Barneys New York will pay the state $525,000 and will change policies to settle racial-profiling allegations, New York Atty. Gen. Eric T. Schneiderman announced Monday.

Under the terms of the settlement, the high-end department store chain will retain an independent anti-profiling consultant and give anti-profiling training to employees, the attorney general’s office said.

Last year, two incidents involving young black shoppers at Barneys’ flagship New York City store drew attention: Trayon Christian, 19, said that after he bought a $349 belt, police outside handcuffed him and questioned the validity of his credit card. Kayla Phillips, 21, described a similar incident after buying a $2,500 handbag.

Schneiderman’s office said it reviewed complaints from customers and former employees. Allegations included that door guards and in-store detectives disproportionately flagged minority customers, sometimes following them around the store even in cases where sales associates identified the customers as frequent patrons, and that “some sales associates avoided serving minority customers so they would not be contacted by loss-prevention employees seeking to investigate the use of credit cards by minority customers.”

“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,” Chief Executive Mark Lee said in a statement. “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.”

Last fall, rapper Jay Z came under criticism for working on a fashion line for the retailer, given the racial-profiling allegations. He decided to keep working with Barneys under the condition that he be granted a "leadership role" and a "seat on a council specifically convened" to address the issue.

Times staff writer August Brown contributed to this report.

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