“Treme” Actor Settling Racial Profiling Suit Against Macy's

Robert Brown says he was stopped buying a $1,350 Movado watch because he is black

A black actor who accused Macy's of racially profiling blacks and Latinos as shoplifters is settling his civil rights lawsuit, one of several cases that drew attention last year to long-simmering complaints about how big retailers treat customers of color.

Rob Brown's case has been "settled in principle," Macy's Inc. said in a statement Friday; a federal judge also indicated in a filing Wednesday that an agreement was in the works.

Macy's wouldn't discuss the terms, saying only that it values every customer and remains "committed to ensuring that every individual who steps into our store feels welcome and appreciated."

Brown's lawyers, Douglas Wigdor and Nicholas Elefterakis, didn't immediately respond to inquiries.

Brown appears on the HBO drama series "Treme" and has acted in films such as "Coach Carter" and "Finding Forrester." He said he was falsely accused of credit card fraud at Macy's flagship store after buying a $1,300 watch for his mother for her college graduation in June 2013.

Before being released — without any charges — he was handcuffed, held for almost an hour in a store detention cell and grilled about the watch by men who mocked the idea that he could afford it, according to his court complaint.

"I believe that I was profiled," Brown said last fall.

His lawsuit was among a series of complaints by black shoppers that spotlighted questions about security practices and profiling at Macy's and other major retailers in the city. Years earlier, Macy's had paid a $600,000 fine and promised changes after the state attorney general made similar claims.

The new allegations against the store immortalized in "Miracle on 34th Street" stirred outrage among civil rights advocates.

A Venezuelan tourist was accused — and acquitted — of shoplifting at Macy's after she said she was just carrying items around the store; her lawyer said she was detained for more than six hours as her 12-year-old son waited, not knowing where she was. In another case, prosecutors dropped charges against a Pakistani shopper who said she was unfairly profiled and falsely accused of stealing jewelry.

In December, Macy's and several other major retailers agreed to create and publicize a customer bill of rights that explicitly prohibits profiling and unreasonable searches.

Macy's said in its statement that it also had reached agreements to settle other racial profiling lawsuits. At least eight shoppers have filed such suits.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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