Worcester-Based Convenience Store Chain Agrees to Pay Up to $25,000 to Resolve Allegations of Race Discrimination
Settlement Resolves Allegations that District Manager Discriminated Against Customer; AG Encourages Consumers to Report Instances of Discrimination
BOSTON – A Worcester-based convenience store chain has agreed to pay up to $25,000 to resolve allegations of discriminatory treatment of a Hispanic customer, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The assurance of discontinuance with Honey Farms, Inc. (Honey Farms), filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, resolves allegations that a district store manager unfairly targeted and falsely accused a Hispanic customer of shoplifting at a Worcester store location.
“Customers should never be followed, detained, or unfairly accused of theft because of bias and stereotypes,” said AG Healey. “Both intentional discrimination and unconscious bias take a serious toll on many of our communities, and our office is working to fight all forms of racial discrimination.”
The AG’s Civil Rights Division conducted an investigation into certain acts and practices of Honey Farms after receiving a complaint from the customer involved in the incident. The AG’s Office alleges that in a March 2015 incident, a district manager followed the customer out of the store, accused him of shoplifting, and used derogatory language referencing the customer’s Hispanic heritage. Security video footage reviewed during the investigation confirmed that the customer had not stolen anything.
According to the terms of the settlement, Honey Farms must pay $20,000, including compensation to the customer and penalties and attorneys’ fees to the Commonwealth. The remaining $5,000 is suspended pending Honey Farms’ compliance with the other terms of the settlement.
The settlement requires Honey Farms to adopt and adhere to a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy and to provide its staff members with a training program that includes understanding and addressing unconscious biases.
The settlement resolves allegations of violations of the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act. The Public Accommodations Law makes it unlawful for any business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to discriminate against customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability. The law prohibits discrimination with respect to both admission into and treatment within places of public accommodation. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce, which can include discriminatory practices.
The settlement is part of a broader initiative by AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division to address the problem of racial discrimination in places of public accommodation, including retail stores. The Civil Rights Division encourages consumers to report instances of discrimination like the one at issue in this case by calling (617) 963-2917 or filing a Civil Rights E-Complaint.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Genevieve C. Nadeau, Deputy Division Chief of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, and Civil Rights Mediator Dylan Fernandes.