Macy’s Watch Purchase Led to Racial Profiling, Suit Alleges

On the heels of a widely publicized incident in which an African-American student was detained after buying a $349 belt at Barneys New York, Macy’s faces a lawsuit from a black actor who says he was racially profiled after buying a Movado watch.

In the suit, filed Oct. 24 in Manhattan Supreme Court, Robert Brown alleges that on June 8, he was unfairly detained by New York City police after he shopped at Macy’s Herald Square store.

The suit does not specify what Brown, whose credits include the HBO show Treme and the film Finding Forrester, purchased. According to reports, he bought a $1,350 Movado watch for his mother.

The legal papers state that New York City police detained Brown shortly after he made the purchase. When he produced identification to show that he had the right credit card, Brown alleges he was told that it was false and he could not afford to make such a purchase. The court filing says that his possessions were then searched, and he was handcuffed and placed in a holding cell for an hour. 

The suit alleges that Macy’s “exhibited a willful and wanton disregard for [Brown’s] civil rights” and engaged in “an act of discrimination and racial profiling.” 

In addition to Macy’s, the suit targets the New York City Police Department, which it accuses of unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment, unlawful detainment, negligence, racial profiling, among other charges. It seeks unspecified damages. 

In a statement, Macy’s says it takes the lawsuit’s accusations “very seriously” and adds the company “does not tolerate discrimination of any kind, including racial profiling.”

The retailer says its initial findings show that “Macy’s personnel were not involved in Mr. Brown’s detention or questioning. This was an operation of the New York City Police Department.” 

The company adds, “We have no record of authorities being summoned. Macy’s procedures would have required a store associate to alert Macy’s Loss Prevention department of any suspicious activity. There were no such reports. Macy’s permitted the New York City Police Department, at its request, to use a room in the Macy’s Herald Square store in relation to its detention of Mr. Brown, but Macy’s personnel were not involved.”  

JCK News Director