Macy’s is back in the news again this week, this time as the target of a lawsuit by minority customers.
The class action suit, filed in Bronx Supreme Court in November, claims that the major national retailer has a “coercive collection practice” of holding minorities at various Macy’s locations on suspicion of shoplifting and forcing them to pay fines — a practice allowed under a law giving retailers the right to impose fines on shoppers whom they suspect of stealing, without proving their guilt.
In a Time article on the suit, Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orellana was identified as just one of thousands of victims of the alleged practice. She told the outlet that while shopping at Macy’s in New York City last year, she was taken by a security guard to a holding cell, accused of trying to steal shirts and questioned for three hours. Orellana contends that she was not allowed access to her phone to contact her family or a lawyer, was forced to sign legal papers admitting her guilt and had to pay a $100 fine in cash before she was turned over to police.
The lawsuit contends that the practice has become so profitable for Macy’s that it’s dedicated an entire unit within its stores to carry out these activities. According to DNAinfo, the suit states that the unit “operates like a typical jail, equipped with holding cells, where alleged shoplifters are held for hours on end and are pressured, threatened and often harassed until they find no reprieve but to make civil penalty payments to [Macy’s]."
Macy’s has rejected the claims in the suit, with spokesperson Jim Sluzewski telling Time via email: “Our company takes great pride on the proactive steps we have taken in recent years as an industry leader in shopping equality,” he wrote. “In fact, we sponsored a first-ever symposium hosted last fall at John Jay College by the Retail Council of New York State to discuss how all retailers can improve the shopping experience across all segments of the population.”