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Macy's to pay $650,000 to settle racial bias claims

When it comes to shopping at Macy's, some minorities allege it was no parade.

After some minority customers complained they had been singled out and unfairly detained by the store's security department, Macy's (M) will settle allegations of racial profiling for $650,000, the state's attorney general said in a statement Wednesday. An investigation by the attorney general's office found the store was stopping and detaining a higher percentage of minority customers compared with non-minorities.

The settlement comes on the heels of a similar deal between Barneys New York and the state attorney general's office. Both agreements highlight the type of racial bias some say is widespread in stores, when shoppers are singled out for their skin color, or "shopping while black." In October, actor Rob Brown of HBO's "Treme" said Macy Herald Square's security workers "paraded" him like a criminal in handcuffs after being racially profiled while buying a $1,350 watch for his mother.

"It is absolutely unacceptable -- and it's illegal -- for anyone in New York to be treated like a criminal simply because of the color of their skin," Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in the statement. "Recent allegations of racial profiling at some of New York's most famous stores stand as a stark reminder that the protections afforded by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are still needed today -- and that equal justice under law remains an American ideal we are striving to attain."

After receiving complaints about Macy's from minority customers, the state's Civil Rights Bureau began an investigation in early 2013. Latino, black and other minority shoppers alleged they had been wrongly apprehended and detained at the store, even though they hadn't stolen nor attempted to steal merchandise, the statement notes.

According to the complaints, customers said they were wrongly detained by loss prevention employees when they took merchandise between floors, even though they didn't intend to shoplift, and that some shoppers who weren't fluent in English were denied interpreters and required to sign trespass notices, even though they couldn't read them.

The settlement comes almost a decade after Macy's entered a consent decree with the attorney general's office to resolve earlier bias claims. "Despite improvements in some areas and the continuation of certain consent decree reforms, the Attorney General's investigation found that Macy's was continuing to stop and detain a higher percentage of its minority shoppers than non-minority shoppers," the statement said.

The complaints included a black woman who said she was stopped by security employees while traveling between floors and openly carrying merchandise on her arm, and a black man who was stopped in the store while making an item exchange, The New York Times notes.

"To be clear, our company's policies strictly prohibit any form of discrimination or racial profiling and any occurrence of such behavior will not be tolerated in our organization," Macy's said in a statement.

The company said it will create "enhanced training and education for our loss prevention and sales associates." It also plans to adopt "an expanded role for our security monitor to help ensure that we have the right policies and procedures in place."