NEW YORK — Civil rights activist Al Sharpton said he and other community leaders had “a very candid” meeting with the CEO of Barneys New York today to discuss allegations of racial profiling at the high-end retailer.
Two black customers accused the luxury store of racial profiling last week after they said they were detained by police on suspicion of credit card fraud after lawfully purchasing expensive items.
“We had a very candid and open meeting today to begin a dialogue,” Sharpton said after the private meeting with Barneys CEO Mark Lee at Sharpton’s National Action Network office in Harlem.
Lee said Barney’s own initial investigation showed no employees were involved in the two incidents, but that the retailer wanted to be part of the solution to racial profiling in stores.
One of the shoppers has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Barneys, the city and its police department, while the other has filed a complaint with the city’s police watchdog agency.
Also attending today's meeting were Hazel Dukes, president of the New York chapter of the NAACP, former Gov. David Paterson, other civil rights leaders, pastors and elected officials.
Macy’s flagship Manhattan store has also been hit with a claim from a black actor that he was stopped because of his race while shopping. Macy’s didn’t comment on the litigation but said in a statement it was investigating.
The New York Attorney General’s Office has sent letters to the executives at both Barneys New York and Macy’s East, citing allegations the stores profile customers based on race and national origin and stating that was prohibited under state and local civil rights law.
“We offer our deepest sympathies’ to the two alleged profiling victims, said Lee, adding that the retailer “has a policy of zero tolerance for discrimination in any form.”
He said Barney’s would “cooperate fully” with the state attorney general.
Sharpton said he wants to convene a meeting of CEOs of various major retailers and the New York Police Department on profiling.