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Walmart faces racial discrimination lawsuit

LEGAL ACTION: Essie Grundy speaks to the media as her lawyer, esteemed women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred watches on

A WOMAN from California is suing US supermarket chain Walmart following her claim that the company implemented extra security measures on black beauty products.

Essie Grundy, 43, claimed that the products are placed in a locked glass case, while beauty products aimed at women from other ethnicities were freely available at the Walmart store near her home in Los Angeles.

Long-time women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, speaking at a press conference on behalf of Grundy, told reporters that when Grundy asked a shop employee why the products were under lock and key, she was told it “was a directive from corporate headquarters”.

Allred added that Grundy was told by this employee that “she would need to be escorted to the cash register with the product so she could purchase the item”.

Grundy alleges that when she raised the issue with a store manager, she says she did not receive a clear response, and no action was taken. She says that she also visited two other Walmarts close to her home, and in one cosmetics marketed for African Americans were freely available, but monitored with security surveillance, unlike other products.

Allred said: “As a result of this discriminatory business practice and policy, we filed a lawsuit against Walmart. It perpetuates a racial stereotype that African Americans are thieves.” The lawsuit did not specify the damages being sought.

However it demanded an immediate end to the practice and it highlighted the humili- ation and psychological trauma Grundy was made to feel. Grundy, a 43-year-old mother who owns an online clothing business, returned to the shop after the initial incident and filmed the beauty department.

LOCKED

The video was played during the press conference — showing men’s and women’s shampoos, body creams and combs of little retail value among other products with labels featuring black models, all arranged in a locked glass case.

However in a statement given to AFP, Walmart said: “We do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at Walmart. We serve more than 140 million customers weekly, crossing all demographics.

“Some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products are subject to additional security,” which Walmart said individual stores determine by “using data”.

The issue of Walmart securing beauty products marketed toward black people has already been a topic of controversy in the US — most notably in the state of Virginia, where the practice was denounced by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

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