Best Buy accused of widespread profiling
5th July 2011 · 1 Comment
WASHINGTON — Best Buy Co., the nation’s largest electronics retailer, faces new allegations of discrimination and retaliation barely one week after agreeing to settle a class-action employment discrimination lawsuit for $10 million.
The new lawsuit, filed by the Washington, D.C. law firm Clinton & Peed PLLC, accuses Best Buy of widespread racial and ethnic customer profiling in the District of Columbia and Virginia.
The suit seeks an end to Best Buy’s racial profiling practices in addition to compensation for an Arab-American Muslim manager who was fired for protesting the practice.
The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on behalf of Todd Abed, a former Best Buy manager.
Mr. Abed accuses Best Buy of terminating his 13-year career because he objected to his district office’s “Be On the Look Out” policy, or “BOLO.”
Under BOLO, Best Buy employees allegedly circulated e-mails among all managers in the region containing images and descriptions of customers suspected of theft, intended to be posted in their respective stores.
According to the complaint, the images and descriptions circulated under BOLO consistently involved racial and ethnic minorities who had done nothing to merit suspicion, accompanied by racially-tinged descriptions such as “bearded Middle Eastern guy who looked shady” or “black ghetto guy.”
Abed, a supervisor in charge of loss prevention (e.g., theft), refused to post the discriminatory emails. When this refusal became known to the district staff, they twice denied Abed promotions to General Manager—despite his being the most qualified applicant—and directed Abed’s new general manager to trump up a reason to terminate him, according to the complaint.
The new general manager, in turn, allegedly told Abed he would create a “paper trail” to have him fired, taunted his religion, sabotaged performance evaluations, placed him under a pretextual disciplinary “Action Plan,” and ultimately terminated him for allegedly poor performance.
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages and attorneys’ fees and costs. Most importantly, Abed seeks a court order permanently ending Best Buy’s customer profiling practices, which he believes continue to this day.
“The customers in Best Buy’s District 91 deserve the right to shop without fear of being judged ‘suspicious’ because of their perceived race or ethnicity,” says C&P Partner Tim Clinton. “We hope this lawsuit will shed some light on this shameful practice, and bring it to an end.”
This article originally published in the July 4, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.