CVS Accused of Racial Discrimination in Potential Class Action

On Wednesday, June 3, four former CVS employees filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming that staff in CVS stores throughout New York City discriminated against African-American and Hispanic customers, profiling them and referring to them with slurs and racial epithets. The plaintiffs are suing the national pharmacy chain itself, as well as some of its managers, for reportedly directing the workers to keep an eye on certain customers under racially-motivated suspicion of larceny, ordering them, among other things, to “follow that black guy.”

Three of the four plaintiffs also claim that they were made to endure hostile working conditions after they complained about racial discrimination not only against the customers, but against themselves. Two plaintiffs state that their complaints were met with retaliation in the form of “increased scrutiny, micromanagement, and fabricated performance criticisms.” Their lawsuit alleges that CVS violated the New York State Human Rights Law, as well as the New York City Human Rights Law.

According to the suit, one of the employees’ supervisors, Anthony Salvatore, would regularly tell subordinates that “black people always are the ones that are the thieves,” and that “lots of Hispanic people steal.” Another supervisor, Abdul Selene, often told the workers—who were detectives, or “market investigators,” within the loss prevention department—to “watch the black and Hispanic people to catch more cases.”

The case’s subject matter is unique in that it claims systematic racial discrimination across numerous CVS stores in the New York City area, perpetuated by multiple managers and directors not only of the loss prevention department, but of the store itself. The lawsuit does not specify the exact number of CVS locations where the plaintiffs experienced or observed discrimination, but David E. Gottlieb, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the discrimination “an institutional problem at CVS.” “[T]his is the first time a group of employees has banded together to provide an inside account and expose the blatant racial profiling policy at one of the largest retailers in the world,” he said.

The four former workers claim that they were “directed to follow utterly despicable and racist directives,” and that “CVS intentionally targets and racially profiles its black and Hispanic shoppers based on the highly offensive, discriminatory, and ill-founded belief that these minority customers are criminals and thieves.” The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages, and the complaint may evolve into a class action lawsuit.