Can former employees sue an employer for discriminatory behavior against them and customers?
Four store detectives formerly employed by the CVS drugstore chain have commenced a class action lawsuit, alleging that the chain of drugstores engaged in racial profiling of customers and discrimination against workers.
According to the suit, brought in a New York Federal District Court, the detectives were told by supervisors to focus their attention on non-white customers. Store supervisors described African Americans and Hispanics in disparaging and crude terms and also directed racially offensive comments at the detectives.
One plaintiff was once told to “get his black ass” back to the store to apologize to a manager he had offended. Another was ordered to “hide like a monkey” to spot shoplifters.
When the detectives complained, the lawsuit says, they were subjected to increased scrutiny, excessive supervision of their work, and unfair criticism of their job performance. They were ultimately terminated.
There are many employment discrimination cases brought in New York every year, as well as a number of “shop-and-frisk” cases in which customers have complained of racial profiling. According to the plaintiffs’ attorney, however, this is the first case in which a group of ex-employees has joined forces to provide an insider’s view of systematic racial profiling at a large chain store.
In other cases against such stores as Barney’s and Macy’s, private discrimination lawsuits have been accompanied by state enforcement actions, fines, and agreements by stores to reform their policies. It is not yet clear whether the lawsuit against CVS will prompt action by the New York State Attorney General.
A spokesperson for CVS said that the company does not tolerate discriminatory practices and that it rigorously enforces nondiscrimination policies. It said it was shocked by the charges and would defend against them forcefully.
If you are an employee who has been subjected to racially insensitive comments or other discriminatory behavior in the workplace, you may be entitled to damages from your employer. Experienced trial lawyer Thomas M. Lancia has helped employees assert their rights and receive compensation in all types of labor and employment discrimination lawsuits. To discuss whether you have a strong claim, contact the law firm of Thomas M. Lancia PLLC today at 212-964-3157 or request a consultation online.