Case File: Race
After finding probable cause, the Department negotiated a $20,000 settlement for an African American shopper subjected to racial profiling and falsely accused of theft.
The shopper, who we'll call Tanya, was stopped by a loss prevention officer as she was leaving the store with her son, and accused of shoplifting an outfit she had placed in her purse. She was then taken to a back room in the store, where she was questioned by two security officers for 30 to 60 minutes.
She had an outfit in her purse, but she had purchased it during a previous shopping trip and had a receipt for it, she told the security officers. They told her the receipt didn't matter — they had seen her place an outfit in her purse on camera, and if she didn't stop talking they would lock her up, they allegedly said.
After a store manager viewed a video recording of the behavior that had led the officers to detain her, Tanya was told she could leave the store. She was also told not to return, and that if she did, she would be trespassing.
Tanya filed a charge of discrimination with the Department of Human Rights. In answering the charge, the store acknowledged that it had mistakenly believed she was a shoplifter, but denied that race was a factor in apprehending and detaining her.
The Department of Human Rights concluded that race probably was a factor in Tanya's detention. The loss prevention supervisor's apprehension "included at least one dismissive reference to the charging part as 'you people' and was more brutal than the respondent has admitted," the Department noted.
In addition to paying Tanya $20,000, the store agreed to provide its loss prevention and security staff with training on the public accommodations provisions of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and to review and revise its policies to ensure compliance with the Act. The store denies that it violated the Act, and the settlement does not constitute an admission of any wrongdoing.