The story of a young black college student arrested at Barneys in New York, accused of shoplifting a belt he had bought, garnered enough media focus to even pull Jay-Z into the picture (albeit reluctantly). Now a host of discrimination suits from ill-treated black shoppers have been brought against Barneys and other major department stores including Macy's, and the New York attorney general is investigating store policies.
Barneys workers have also begun speaking out (anonymously so as to avoid retribution), claiming that racist treatment of customers is rampant and systematic among shop workers and security guards at the elite department store.
One former Barneys employee, who is black, told HuffPo, "If a black person comes in with a sweatshirt or sneakers, some of the white sales associates would be on the floor saying: 'Why are they even here? They're probably going to scam.'"
Barneys insiders told HuffPost they've seen profiling by salespeople and security guards. One current veteran employee at the Madison Avenue store -- who asked for anonymity because workers were given "strict warning" they could lose their jobs for speaking to the media -- alleged that store security keeps a close eye on black shoppers who don't look famous.
“If you’re black and come in with an entourage, you won’t be followed because they’ll be like ‘Oh, that’s somebody famous,’" the employee said. "But if you come in by yourself or with one other person, then you’re going to be followed.”