California woman sues Walmart of discrimination over locked hair - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

California woman sues Walmart of discrimination over locked hair products

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LOS ANGELES -

An African-American woman is suing Walmart for racial discrimination because the store where she shops keeps beauty products designed for black customers locked up, but not products. Cellphone video the woman took shows items under one dollar behind glass.

Famed attorney Gloria Allred filed the lawsuit Friday in California. Allred and her client, Essie Grundy, held a news conference Friday afternoon.

Grundy says she went to a Walmart in Perris, California, on January 12 to buy beauty products and found the items used by African-Americans were locked up behind glass. She says the beauty products for other races were easily available. Grundy says she had to wait to be assisted by a store associate who unlocked the case, removed the product, and relocked the case. Then accompanied her to the cash register. She said she wasn't allowed to touch the product until she purchased it.

"I was angry, sad, frustrated, and humiliated all at the same time. It was so emotional, it's hard to describe. I know there is a lot of racism out there, but I have never been faced with it up close. When I realized that Walmart was segregating all of our products from other products of other races, I felt not wanted, I felt that I belonged in a category, and as an African American I was not welcomed at Walmart," Grundy said Friday.

Grundy said she complained to an employee who allegedly told her the practice was a directive from corporate.

"Previously, Walmart has tried to justify this racial discrimination policy and practice by stating that, quote, 'The protective packaging was part of a normal practice to minimize theft of at-risk items,' end quote. We disagree. We believe that if Walmart is concerned about security it should lock up the shelves of all products. What appears to be racial profiling of African American customers must end. We think that it perpetuates a racial stereotype that African American customers should be suspected of being thieves and criminals," Allred said in the press conference.

Allred said they are seeking an undisclosed amount for damages and an injunction against Walmart.

Walmart responded to the claims, saying it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.

"We serve more than 140 million customers weekly, crossing all demographics, and are focused on meeting their needs while providing the best shopping experience at each store. We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products are subject to additional security. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court," a spokesman said.

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