- The Washington Times - Friday, December 4, 2015

Macy’s is facing a class-action suit led by a shopper who said she was detained in a holding cell by the department store and interrogated for hours before being turned over to the police.

Attorneys representing the lead plaintiff, Cinthia Carolina Reyes Orellana, alleged in the complaint that Macy’s practices a “coercive collection practice” in which minority customers suspected of shoplifting have been illegally detained and ordered to pay fines, regardless of whether or not they actually stole anything.

Ms. Orellana was detained at Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan’s Herald Square last year after a guard suspected she was about to steal clothing, the complaint claimed. She was questioned for three hours in a holding cell, denied access to legal counsel and forced to sign a document acknowledging her guilt, all before eventually being placed in the custody of the New York Police Department, her lawyers said.

“This coercive collection practice or scheme has become so profitable that Macy’s … has dedicated an entire unit within its existing store, which operates like a typical jail, equipped with holding cells, where alleged shoplifters are held for hours on end, and are pressured, threatened, and often harassed until they find no reprieve but to make civil penalty payments to [Macy’s],” the suit charges.

Faruk Usar of the Usar Law Group, an attorney for the woman, told the Gothamist that he suspects that upwards of tens of thousands of other minority shoppers have been subjected to the same mistreatment at Macy’s stores across the country, and pointed to the store’s own admission that 6,000 customers had been detained in New York state alone during a recent 12-month span.

Shoppers, he said, “should never have to shop in fear of being frivolously/falsely accused and prosecuted for theft.”

“What the lawsuit aims to do, is to finally put an end to this practice, and bring justice to past victims, whom we encourage to come forward and join Cinthia,” Mr. Usar told DNAinfo.

In a statement, a spokesman for Macy’s told Time that the company “takes great pride on the proactive steps we have taken in recent years as an industry leader in shopping equality.”

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