Barneys New York Employees Speak Out On Store’s Racial Culture

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Several current and former employees of Barneys New York, the luxury retailer currently being accused of racially profiling customers, spoke out against the store’s racial culture and the discrimination they witnessed first hand.

A former associate who worked retailer’s Madison Avenue flagship store told Huffington Post that in addition to overhearing associates joke about customers they felt didn’t belong, she repeatedly heard sales staff and security go in on black shoppers. The employee, who is herself African-American, stated “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.”

Several other Barneys insiders came forward, under the condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their jobs as they were given a strict warning by the company not to talk to the media, confirming history of profiling by both sales associates and store security. Allegedly, store security only lets their guard down for black shoppers who appear famous.  A veteran employee at the Madison Avenue location said, 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.” However not all celebs are given the star treatment, on former employees recalls hearing a Barneys loss-prevention specialist state in regards to an encounter he had with rapper Lil Kim at Saks Fifth Avenue, “‘Sometimes you think certain rappers have money, but just because they have money doesn’t mean they don’t shoplift.”

Sadly the situation at Barneys is not unique, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Dillards and Kohl’s have each been sued for alleged racial profiling in the past decade.

In recent weeks, Barneys has been accused in two cases of alleged racial profiling by shoppers who were questioned by the New York Police Department after making purchases at Barneys. The high-end retailer has said that none of their employees were involved in either incident, effectively shifting blame on to the NYPD officers who stopped the customers.

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(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)