An African-American woman this week filed a civil rights lawsuit against Albertsons and its parent company, Safeway, alleging its managers took no steps to correct or apologize for the actions of a checkout clerk at an Irvine store who incorrectly assumed the woman was on food stamps.
Jenna Watkinson, a spokeswoman for Safeway, told the Orange County Register Thursday that company executives have not seen the lawsuit and “do not comment on pending litigation.”
Deirdre Harris, 42, who filed the lawsuit Monday, said the incident occurred Jan. 27 at the Albertsons at Alton Avenue and Culver Street, according to the register. She said she was trying to pull out a debit card to pay for items, when the checkout clerk asked her if she wanted to use her EBT card.
“What exactly did you say?” Harris asked the clerk.
The clerk repeated her question and asked if she wanted to use food stamps.
“I felt completely demoralized,” said Harris, an Orange County native who grew up in Huntington Beach, works as a fashion brand consultant, and has lived in Irvine for 22 years, the Register reported.†”For me, it was a very clear reminder — a painful reminder — that we do not live in a post-racial era.”
Harris said she spoke with three supervisors including Ron Foss, a regional manager at Safeway. She said he explained, as other supervisors had before, that the clerk had done nothing wrong and was simply trying to give her free bags, because those using food stamps don’t have to pay for reusable plastic bags.
Foss eventually offered her $500 as compensation for her emotional distress, she said, and added: “If I were you, I’d take it.”
A follow-up letter sent by a Safeway claims examiner to Harris on March 24 states: “Please be advised that we’ve completed our investigation and determined there’s no liability on the store.”
It offered $500 and added:
“Failing to accept the customer service gesture will be construed as a rejection and will result in a formal denial of this claim as there has been no evidence of discrimination or racial profiling.”
—City News Service
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