May 10, 2017
On April 10, 2017, Deirdre Harris, a 42 year-old African-American woman, from Huntington Beach, filed a civil rights lawsuit against Safeway and its subsidiary Albertson’s. The lawsuit claims that a store manager allegedly failed to take steps to correct or apologize for a checkout employee’s actions after the cashier incorrectly assumed Harris was purchasing her groceries with food stamps.
Harris reported that she spoke with two location supervisors and with Safeway regional manager Ron Foss, who insisted that the clerk did nothing incorrectly but attempted to give Harris reusable bags, which are no cost to food stamp users.
The incident reportedly happened at the Albertsons on Culver Street and Alton Avenue. Harris attempted to remove a debit card from her phone case when the clerk asked her if she was going to use her EBT card.
Harris explained that later, Foss offered her compensation in the amount of $500 for her emotional distress. A letter from Safeway to Harris confirmed this. She did not accept the money or respond to their correspondence.
In a city with less than a 1 percent African-American population, Harris related that she previously experienced subtle racism. She added that she felt “demoralized” and believes that the nation continues to struggle with racial issues.
Safeway spokeswoman Jenna Watkinson related that she had not yet seen a lawsuit, but she could not comment on the upcoming racial discrimination case. She added that the company policy is to treat all customers with the highest respect.
Chris Mears, her lawyer, stated that the store clerk’s actions were a clear violation to California’s civil rights laws and that even though the lawsuit seeks monetary damages, Harris insists it’s not about money. Instead, she wants to bring awareness to racial issues, motivate the company to change and take action to keep this type of incident from happening again.
If you feel that a place of business has discriminated against you due to your race, gender, sexual orientation or other protected class, contact our Orange County law office. We can review your rights with you and advise you of the best course of action to take.