Two black shoppers detained by employees in separate stores in the Twin Cities were victims of racial discrimination, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced Thursday.
The stores, Marshalls and Walgreens Inc., agreed to settle the customers' claims, but they denied violating the law.
Crystal Adams of St. Louis Park received $20,000 to settle her claim that she was pushed back into the Marshalls store in Crystal as she tried to leave, taken to a back room for questioning and called "you people" by an employee, according to a department memorandum.
Johnny Aldridge of St. Paul received $5,000 after allegedly being confronted by two employees who said a video showed him shoplifting, state documents show.
Adams told the state that she brought an outfit to Marshalls in January 2010 to see about exchanging it. After looking at the store's merchandise, she decided against an exchange and put the outfit back into her purse.
After being confronted and detained, the store issued her a "trespass notice," kept the outfit and told her she was no longer welcome to shop there, Adams told the Human Rights Department.
Marshalls told the state that an inexperienced store detective mistakenly thought Adams had taken the outfit off a rack and put it in her purse. The company denied that she was pushed.
Aldridge was shopping at the Walgreens at 734 Grand Av. in St. Paul in December 2009.
Two employees allegedly approached him and said a store video showed him putting something in his jacket. He opened his jacket and raised his shirt, asked employees to allow him to view the video and encouraged them to call police, Aldridge told the state.
Aldridge became irate when confronted, Walgreens told investigators. According to Aldridge, employees told him he would "not be so upset if [he] had not done anything wrong" and they made him leave the store without the items he intended to buy.
The Department of Human Rights found there was probable cause to believe Marshalls and Walgreens denied their customers "the full and equal enjoyment of the goods [and] services ... of a place of public accommodation because of race," a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Both companies agreed to provide staff training.
Adams could not be reached for comment. When asked for comment, Marshalls' parent company, TJX Cos. Inc., said, "We greatly value the differences among people and are committed to operating our business with the utmost of integrity."
Walgreens did not respond to a request for comment.
Stephen L. Smith, Aldridge's attorney said, "We were quite pleased to be able to have everyone come to the table with open minds to resolve a difficult situation"
Jane Friedmann • 612-673-7852