HBO actor sues Macy’s, charging race discrimination
Posted: 8:00 pm Fri, October 25, 2013
NEW YORK — A black actor on the HBO drama series “Treme” said in a lawsuit on Friday that he was stopped because of his race while buying sunglasses at Macy’s — the third discrimination allegation made this week by a black shopper against a department store.
Robert Brown, who filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, said he was detained by police at the flagship Herald Square store on June 8 after employees contacted authorities about possible credit card fraud.
He said he was “paraded while handcuffed” through the store to a holding cell, where he was kept for nearly an hour while officers grilled him and searched his bag. His lawsuit said Macy’s employees suggested he couldn’t afford to make such an expensive purchase. He eventually was released without charges.
The department store was profiling Brown because of his race, said his lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages.
“This is about justice, not money,” Brown’s lawyer John Elefterakis said.
Macy’s didn’t comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
The New York Police Department is accused in the lawsuit of violating Brown’s constitutional rights. The city’s Law Department said it would review the claims once it received a copy of the lawsuit.
Earlier this week, two Barneys New York customers came forward with similar stories. Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips, who are black, said they were detained by police after making expensive purchases at the store.
Police said they were already in the store when Christian was taken into custody and they were contacted by the store after Phillips used a temporary debit card.
The accusations prompted an outcry from civil rights groups, with the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network threatening to picket the store. Sharpton said he planned to hold a Saturday news conference at which other shoppers who felt profiled would come forward.
The Barneys profiling claims also incited criticism on Twitter and an online petition asking rapper Jay-Z, who’s collaborating with the luxury retailer for a holiday collection, to disassociate from it. An email to his representative seeking comment was unanswered.
Barneys said on Thursday it had retained a civil rights expert to lead a review of its policies and procedures and had reached out to community leaders to start a dialogue. The CEO of Barneys, Mark Lee, offered his “sincere regret and deepest apologies.”
In the lawsuit against Macy’s, Brown, who also acted in “Don Jon” and “Finding Forrester,” said he tried to show police officers his identification to prove his credit/debit card wasn’t a fake but was told it was phony. He said he also produced the ID when buying the sunglasses.
Earlier this week, Christian sued Barneys, saying he was accused of fraud after using his debit card to buy a $349 Ferragamo belt in April. Phillips said in a notice of claim filed with the city that undercover officers detained her after she bought a $2,500 designer bag at Barneys in February.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said it’s standard practice for retailers to call police after they believe crimes are committed in stores and the cases are under investigation.
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