Can Racial Discrimination While Shopping Lead To A Personal Injury Claim?

Most people think of racial discrimination in terms of the workplace or when it comes to equal housing. The reality, however, is that racial discrimination can have an impact on people's lives in other areas as well, affecting where and how they are able to do business. If you've been a victim of racial discrimination because you went "shopping while black," can you file a lawsuit? Here's what you should know.

Your Civil Rights 

Federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act, prohibit discrimination based on your race (among other things). That being said, people of color often experience some mild racial discrimination when they walk into businesses that are in predominately "white" areas or who cater to upper-class clientele. 

Sixty-five percent of blacks believe that racial profiling is a problem in the businesses they visit. They feel that from the moment they venture into a store with luxury goods that they are being eyed as a potential shoplifter or viewed critically by the staff, who behave as if they believe that the color of the shopper's skin indicates whether or not the shopper can afford to buy anything.

The behavior is common enough that even President Barack Obama has mentioned it. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also experienced racial profiling while shopping in a high-end store. While such behavior is distasteful and biased, it can get worse. When it does, it can result in a personal injury lawsuit based on discrimination.

Your Right To Sue

A recent event in California has brought renewed focus on the issue of racial discrimination. A group of women, mostly black, were patrons of a wine train company. The women, all members of a book club, ranged in age from their 50s to 85, were warned that they were laughing too loudly and offending other patrons. When they asked who complained, the waitress said that she could simply see it on other patron's faces. While the women tried to be more subdued, their laughter was still too loud to suit the company -- so they were marched through the train in full view of other passengers and handed over to police. 

It's important to note that none of the women were ever accused of a crime, yet the company took to social media to falsely allege that the women had been physically abusive to other guests and staff. The company later apologized and tried to offer the women a free ride on the train for anyone they cared to invite. Two of the women lost their jobs as a result of the publicity surrounding the event, and all eleven have joined in a multi-million dollar lawsuit to recover their damages based on racial discrimination.

While cases like that are extreme, they aren't necessarily unique. A black teen was jailed after buying an expensive belt at an upscale store -- despite having the receipt and his ID on hand. The presumption was that a young black man couldn't afford it. In a similar incident, a black woman was accused of fraud after purchasing a designer handbag. 

If you find yourself accused of theft, publicly humiliated, or otherwise seriously mistreated due to racial discrimination, contact a personal injury attorney today to discuss your case.