Did CVS in NYC racially profile customers?

Four former CVS detectives filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the drugstore chain claiming they were told to profile black and Hispanic shoppers. CVS says it's "shocked" by the allegations.

REUTERS/Stelios Varias/Files
A pedestrian walks past a CVS store in downtown Washington, in 2010. Four former CVS security personnel in New York City filed a lawsuit claiming the drugstore chain encouraged racial profiling.

Four former store detectives employed by CVS in New York City say their supervisors ordered them to target minority shoppers.

They filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the drugstore on Wednesday. The detectives say they were fired after complaining about the discrimination.

CVS spokeswoman Carolyn Castel says the company doesn't tolerate discrimination and is "shocked" by the allegations.

The lawsuit alleges that the workers' supervisors told them to racially profile black and Hispanic shoppers.

It claims CVS intentionally targets and racially profiles shoppers based on the "ill-founded institutional belief ... minority customers are criminals and thieves."

The plaintiffs are all either black or Hispanic.

The detectives say they were subjected to increased scrutiny within weeks after complaining to CVS about the episodes.

Last year, Macy's in New York paid $650,000 to settle a similar claim, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan faced more than a dozen complaints from African-American and Latino customers claiming that Macy’s "lost prevention unit" detained them even though they hadn’t stolen or attempted to steal anything. Complainants also accused store officials of falsely accusing minorities of shoplifting more than white customers.

“It is absolutely unacceptable – and it’s illegal – for anyone in New York to be treated like a criminal simply because of the color of their skin,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement Wednesday. “This agreement will help ensure that no one is unfairly singled out as a suspected criminal when they shop in New York and that all New Yorkers enjoy full and equal access to our retail establishments.”

Under the terms of its settlement, Macy’s must designate an independent expert on anti-discrimination laws who will report to the attorney general. The company must train employees on best ways to treat detainees and investigate customer complaints of racial profiling. 

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