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Biz Lessons From Macy's Lawsuit: Let Police Stop Thieves

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on July 06, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You are sensitive to thefts and keep an eagle eye on customers in your shop. In fact, you are becoming so good at stopping shoplifters that you almost wish you were a cop.

Well, if you are not, then you should be careful with your approach as what you are doing may not be legal. Let law enforcement handle the business of crime and punishment. Macy's department stores in New York found that out the hard way already, according to The Guardian, and it may well pay heavily yet again. Let's look at their handling of thefts and a class action lawsuit filed against them to avoid repeating their mistakes.

False Detentions

In 2014, Macy's paid fines to the state of New York, about $650,000 to settle more than a dozen complaints of profiling and false detentions in one city store. The company was targeting minority shoppers, holding them in custody in the store, charging them for alleged thefts (even when the suspects were innocent) and passing them on to police.

Now the store is being sued again because, although the practice officially ended, apparently it has actually continued. A class action lawsuit reveals that Macy's continues to arrest innocent minority shoppers, including women with hijabs whose religious headgear is searched in the store. Last week, a Manhattan judge ruled that the lawsuit could continue and said that the department store had abused power retailers have under New York's general business and obligations law.

Appropriate Theft Prevention

Business owners can briefly detain a suspected shoplifter, although exactly how much and what process to follow will be dictated by state statutes. However, there is no law that allows a business to take the law into its own hands, although some stores, like Macy's, have abused civil recovery procedures provided in the law.

Consult With Counsel

If you are concerned about safety, security, or theft prevention, talk to a lawyer about setting up a system that spots thieves and leaves stopping them to police. Get guidance.

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