November 13 2018

Lord & Taylor Agrees to $100K Settlement After Racial Discrimination Investigation


A store chain with a Burlington location has agreed to work with the state in the wake of an investigation into its loss prevention practices.

Lord & Taylor will hire an expert consultant to review and improve its shoplifting prevention policies and procedures, train its staff, and pay $100,000 to resolve an investigation into racial discrimination, Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Tuesday.

In a release, the AG’s office said the settlement agreement between Lord & Taylor LLC and the AG’s Office concludes an investigation into the company’s loss prevention practices and policies. Covering all four of Lord & Taylor’s Massachusetts stores – Boston, Braintree, Burlington and Natick – the AG’s investigation arose out of concerns that the company’s efforts to prevent shoplifting created a climate of racial and ethnic bias resulting in, among other things, the disproportionate targeting of black and Hispanic customers for surveillance and apprehension. Healey’s office said Lord & Taylor fully cooperated with the AG’s Civil Rights Division during its investigation and in agreeing to proactively address these issues.

“Following our investigation, Lord & Taylor has agreed to take meaningful steps to improve its policies and procedures to prevent racial profiling of customers—we hope others will do the same,” said AG Healey. “Far too often, shoppers are unfairly viewed as suspicious or not belonging, simply because of their race or ethnicity. This takes a toll on individuals and broader communities, even when it is the result of unconscious bias, and it is our collective responsibility to address it.”

Local civil rights leaders applauded the investigation.

“As a member of the AG’s racial justice advisory council, the NAACP Boston Branch is pleased with the work of the Civil Rights Division in developing and pursuing this investigation,” said Tanisha M. Sullivan, President NAACP Boston Branch. “We can never become numb to the reality and impact of racism. This investigation reminds us that racial discrimination is still a  serious problem in our society and we need to remain vigilant in rooting it out.”

“We applaud the leadership of Attorney General Maura Healey in tackling racial profiling in the retail industry,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “This settlement represents an important step in the right direction and demonstrates that retailers can meaningfully address racial discrimination and challenges in our society. Retailers must comply with the law and follow best practices to overcome unconscious biases that disproportionately harm people of color."  

Under the terms of the settlement, Lord & Taylor will hire an outside consultant, who specializes in addressing unconscious or implicit bias in the retail industry, to conduct a thorough review of its existing shoplifting prevention policies and work with the company to make improvements, including a specific policy to prevent racial bias in the stores’ shoplifting prevention activities, the release states.  Lord & Taylor also has agreed to provide annual unconscious or implicit bias training to all of its customer-facing employees in its Massachusetts stores and to enhance the training it provides to its Asset Protection employees.

As a result of the settlement, Lord & Taylor also will work with the AG’s Office to develop and implement a Customer Bill of Rights that will provide resources and information for customers, including a phone number and email address for filing complaints. The Customer Bill of Rights will be posted in all of the company’s Massachusetts stores and on its website.

In addition, the company will pay $100,000 to the Commonwealth to fund programs, activities, or other resources intended to combat racial discrimination and to promote racial equity and inclusion, Healey’s office states.

The settlement resolves alleged violations of the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act. The Public Accommodations Law makes it unlawful for any business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to distinguish among customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. The law prohibits discrimination with respect to both admission into and treatment within places of public accommodation. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.


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