On November 13, 2018, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a $100,000 settlement with Lord & Taylor LLC (“Lord & Taylor”) to resolve allegations that the clothing retailer’s shoplifting prevention program disproportionately targeted black and Hispanic customers. Lord & Taylor also agreed to hire an expert to review its shoplifting policies and help create safeguards against implicit bias. In addition, the company’s employees will receive yearly anti-bias training, and Lord & Taylor will develop a system for handling customer complaints regarding discrimination.
The settlement comes after a customer complained to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office (“AGO”) regarding racial discrimination in one of the company’s four Massachusetts locations. This complaint prompted an investigation into Lord & Taylor’s anti-shoplifting policies. The AGO interviewed consumers and former employees, as well as collecting data on the store’s surveillance and apprehension of suspected shoplifters. Healey alleged that the investigation revealed Lord & Taylor’s loss-prevention tactics were in violation of the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act.
Lord & Taylor denied any wrongdoing but cooperated fully with the investigation. According to spokeswoman Nicole Schoenberg, the company “chose to engage cooperatively with the Attorney General’s Office.” The office recognized this collaborative spirit in its statement on the investigation, emphasizing that “Lord & Taylor fully cooperated with the AG’s Civil Rights Division during its investigation and in agreeing to proactively address these issues.”
Healey’s enforcement action against Lord & Taylor may not be an isolated incident. According to the AGO’s statement, “The settlement is part of an ongoing effort by the AG’s Office to address the problem of racial discrimination in places of public accommodation, including retail stores.” The statement also encouraged consumers to report discrimination by calling the AGO’s Civil Rights Division or filing a complaint online.
As customers flock to stores for the holiday shopping season, it seems likely that Healey—and potentially other state attorneys general—will be paying close attention to anti-shoplifting policies. Consumer complaints of racial profiling could leave retailers vulnerable to investigations and enforcement actions. We will continue to monitor the actions taken by state attorneys general regarding retail loss prevention.