|Barneys New York Complaints Increasing, Lawyer Says|
|By ALAN FARNHAM and SUSANNA KIM (@skimm)||Oct 28, 2013, 2:45 PM|
A lawyer who has said he intends to sue Barneys New York clothing store for allegedly racially profiling a customer claims he is receiving additional calls from people who say they were also mistreated by the store.
Attorney Kareem Vessup made his claim to ABCNews.com today as a Change.org petition urging rapper Jay Z to break with Barneys has grown to 16,700 signatories.
The allegations about racial profiling prompted civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton to threaten to boycott Barneys unless the store takes steps to stop the alleged practice.
A statement by Jay Z standing by Barneys has not kept the issue from growing.
"I have received some phone calls from individuals who claim they have been mistreated at Barneys as well," Vessup told ABCNews.com today.
The lawyer declined to say how many calls from alleged Barneys customers he has received before he investigates these claims.
Vessup has already filed notice that he intends to sue Barneys for $5 million on behalf of Kayla Phillips, 21, of Brooklyn who claims she was mistreated after buying a $2,500 Celine handbag. But Vessup said the exact amount of damages is "ongoing" and unknown at this time.
"I don't know anyone whose constitutional rights have been violated and feel it's insignificant," he said.
The Jay Z fan who started the petition and forced the rapper to defend Barneys said today that he did not mean to target the singer.
"As a lifelong Jay Z fan, the petition is and was not meant to be antagonistic to him," Derick Bowers told ABCNews.com.
"My hope is that this campaign -- and Jay Z's engagement with Barneys -- can turn this situation into a powerful moment to actually address the issue of not only racial profiling, but profiling in general. Along with over 16,000 supporters of this campaign, I hope that Jay Z will work with us and consumers affected by discrimination to help Barneys clean up its act," Bowers said.
Over the weekend, Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, defended his relationship with Barneys New York. Jay-Z said he was "no stranger to being profiled" and empathized with people who had been.
"Hopefully this brings forth a dialogue to effect real change," he said in the statement posted on his website.
Jay-Z said he had not "made any comments because I am waiting on facts and the outcome of a meeting between community leaders and Barneys."
The negative publicity comes just as Barneys and Jay-Z are poised to introduce a collection of high-end merchandise created especially for Barneys by the rapper.
Phillips filed noticed that she was suing after Trayon Christian of Queens, N.Y., said he was detained and questioned when he bought an expensive belt at Barneys. Christian filed suit Oct. 11, accusing the store of racial profiling.
Barneys said in a statement last week that while the store ordinarily does not comment on pending litigation, it was making an exception in this case. The company declined to comment further on Phillips' pending lawsuit.
"After carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale," the statement said. "Barney's New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights. We are very sorry that any customer of our store would have this experience."
Macy's is also defending itself after "Treme" actor Robert Brown said he was wrongfully detained after purchasing an item from a New York location.
Over the weekend, Macy's released a statement claiming that the store's "personnel were not involved," in the incident and that the store had provided a small room to police officers at their request.
"Our company will continue to investigate all aspects of our alleged involvement in this incident, and to cooperate fully with the courts and the New York City Police Department, with which we have a close and important working relationship," the company said in the statement. "If Macy's policies are found to have been violated, we will take swift and decisive action."