Federal Lawsuit: Walmart Discriminates Against African-Americans by Locking Up Hair Products

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Late last week, Walmart was named as a defendant in a federal lawsuit. The plaintiffs, represented by Gloria Allred, allege that Walmart is violating California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act by locking up hair care products that are primarily used by African-Americans.

Under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, California businesses are forbidden to discriminate against sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation. The plaintiff, Essie Grundy, alleges that Walmart violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act locked away hair care products for African-Americans in glass cases and kept them separated from the products designed for other hair types. The products for other hair types in that particular Walmart were not locked away. The product in question was a .48 cent comb.

According to the lawsuit, Grundy alleged that in order for her to purchase the hair care products, she would need to be escorted to the cash register along with the products. Gloria Allred stated that Grundy was informed by a Walmart employee that the products were locked up under a “directive from corporate headquarters.”

Gloria Allred: Walmart “Perpetuates a Racial Stereotype”

In a statement given by Gloria Allred, she said in regards to the products being locked away and the need that Walmart had to escort Grundy to the register to purchase the products, “…it perpetuates a racial stereotype that African American customers should be suspected of being thieves and criminals.”

Essie Grundy also read her own statement that addressed how the incident affected her at the time, “I was angry, sad, frustrated, and humiliated all at the same time. It was so emotional it’s hard to describe. I know there is a lot of racism out there, but I have never been faced with it up close.”

Walmart’s Policy: Locking Up At-Risk Items

Walmart issued an email statement to KTLA 5 in Los Angeles and said that no retailer “is immune to the challenge of crime. The decision about which items are subject to additional in-store security is made on a store-by-store basis and often at the discretion of the store manager.”