Lawsuit: Drugstore Chain Racially Profiled Black Shoppers

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Black security guards, hired to watch other blacks, also suffered egregious racism from white CVS managers

By Frederick H. Lowe

CVS Pharmacy regional managers and store managers in New York City called black-male shoppers  ‘niggers’ and black women shoppers ‘nigger bitches,’ and said they did not want them in their stores because all of them were thieves, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week against CVS by the company’s former African-American employees.

The 27-page lawsuit, filed by the New York law firm of Wigdor LLP on Wednesday in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, alleges that the managers ignored monitoring white shoppers and focused only on blacks and Hispanics.

Former New York employees of CVS Pharmacy have sued the company.

Former New York employees of CVS Pharmacy have sued the company.

White woman shoplifter released; blacks held

For example, a white woman caught shoplifting was released by store employees without being held for police, but blacks or Hispanics were held and arrested.

Wigdor LLP filed the lawsuit, which seeks class action status, on behalf of former CVS employees LaCole Simpson, Sheree Steele, Delbert Sorhanindo and Kerth Pollack.

The plaintiffs sued CVS Pharmacy, which is based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island,  Anthony Salvatore and Abdul Selene, regional loss prevention managers. The plaintiffs also sued store managers Natia Doe, Amery Attameey, Uma Doe, Hazan Doe and John and Mary Does 1 through 50.

The defendants allegedly discriminated against the plaintiffs by violating Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the New York State Human Rights Law, New York Executive Law and the New York York City Human Rights Law. Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was the first federal law to protect the civil rights of African Americans.

CVS is the nation’s second-largest pharmacy in terms of store locations. For the 2014 fiscal year, CVS Health, parent company of CVS Pharmacy, operated 7,800 retail pharmacies. The company reported a net income of $4.6 billion, up 1.13% compared to $4.5 billion in the 2013 fiscal year.

Some managers at CVS Pharmacy called black men "Niggers" and did not want them in their stores

Some managers at CVS Pharmacy called black men “Niggers” and did not want them in their stores.

CVS’s bigotry was directed towards African-American and Hispanic shoppers.

A special group of black and Hispanic employees called Market Investigators (MIs), who were hired to follow and monitor blacks and Hispanic shoppers, also suffered greatly at CVS to earn a living.

Salvatore told Lacole Simpson, a Market Investigator, ‘These black people are always the ones that are the thieves,’ ‘I am going get these black guys,’ ‘that black nigger over there is stealing,’ and ‘I’m going to get this black bitch,’ the lawsuit alleges.

Black shoppers always followed

When Salvatore Selene visited CVS stores, they ordered MIs to track and follow black customers, even though there were no indications whatsoever that they intended to steal, the lawsuit said.

Although the lawsuit focuses on Manhattan and Queens, two New York boroughs, CVS’ alleged racism is systemic.

My story

Two months ago, I stopped shopping at a CVS near my home in Chicago’s Edgewater Glen neighborhood. I picked up my prescriptions there after my other pharmacy closed. As soon as I walked into the store, a Hispanic man with a black ponytail followed me to back of the store where the pharmacy was located.

I usually called ahead for my prescriptions, but if I had to wait, I sat in the waiting area. A black woman employee with a walkie talkie stood and stared at me until my name was called. Once I paid for my prescription, she followed me until I left the building.

I wrote at least five letters and emails to CVS’ headquarters, complaining about how I was treated. Basically, CVS took my money and spit in my face. My emails and letters were either ignored or responded to by a company representative who denied that I was followed or racially profiled.

After the lawsuit was filed, a CVS spokesperson said she was shocked at the allegations cited in the suit.

CVS manager kills shoplifter for stealing toothpaste and crayons

I had negative feelings about CVS even before I shopped there. In 2010, CVS  store manager, Pedro Villanova, choked to death Anthony Kyser, a 35-year-old homeless black man, for stealing a tube of toothpaste and crayons from a store in Little Village, a Mexican neighborhood in Chicago.

And every time I passed the store near my home, there was a Chicago police paddy wagon taking a black man out of the store. There was usually an Indian man standing near the paddy wagon, gesturing wildly.

I despised CVS’s African-American and Hispanic employees, but after reading the lawsuit that focuses only on employees in New York, I realize they also suffered.

Keeping a job for self-preservation

Dr. Jerome Williams, distinguished professor and Prudential Chair in Business at Rutgers University, said black employees follow black shoppers out of self preservation.

consumer-equality

Dr. Jerome D. Williams, the book’s co-author, said he may include a chapter about CVS/Pharmacy.

“They have to keep their jobs to put food on the table and to pay the rent,” said Dr. Williams, a marketing professor and co- author of the forthcoming book “Consumer Equality:  Race and the American Marketplace.”

Retailers hire African-American security guards so they can more easily dodge allegations of racism, Dr. Williams said.

But black employees were continually subjected to racist outbursts from their employers.

Racist comments directed at black security guards

“Simply put, plaintiffs and all other MIs (Market Investigators) have been subjected to a hostile work environment that consisted not only of being directed to discriminate but also included racist and discriminatory comments directed to them and others, the lawsuit alleges. “Defendants’ team of MIs was directed to follow utterly despicable and racist directives. Specifically, they were repeatedly instructed to intentionally target and racially profile black and Hispanic shoppers.”

Dr. Jerome D. Williams of Rutgers University

Dr. Jerome D. Williams of Rutgers University

Attameey, a Manhattan store manager, approached Simpson, telling her ‘six black guys came into the store and cleaned it out.’ Attameey showed her the store’s security video of the six black men shopping and no theft could be observed. The lawsuit claims,”Occurrences like this were frequent at the CVS stores he (Attameey) managed,” the lawsuit added.

CVS managers reviled black employees and black shoppers. One of the Manhattan store managers identified in the suit as Uma Doe prohibited any black employees from entering her office in a CVS in Manhattan, according to the lawsuit. Doe also called a black woman ‘black nigga bitch,’ and she told Pollack, a security guard, she thought he was a shoplifter.

The plaintiffs are seeking an award of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. They are seeking a jury trial.

 

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3 Comments

  1. Ronald E Stukes says:

    I just got off of the phone talking to the pharmacy departments manager about a complaint about be racially profiled in CVS on two occasions & I noticed in the five or more years I have been in that store I only saw one black pharmacy tech & she wasn’t there very long.

  2. That’s it for me CVS nationwide. Will share this information on social media and pass it onto
    anyone I know. Let’s use our economic power.

  3. That’s great. I stopped shopping at CVS.

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