updated 01:45 pm EDT, Wed May 25, 2011
Incident recorded on cellphones
Workers at Apple's Upper West Side store in New York City recently engaged in racial discrimination, a new lawsuit complains. The plaintiffs, Brian Johnston and Nile Charles, say that on December 9th, they went into to the store to buy headphones. Both Johnston and Charles are black, and are described as having worn "baggy jeans and large sweaters with hoods" when they entered the store at 3:20 in the afternoon.
They were then met by an Apple worker said to be white and in his 50s, measuring an estimated 6'2" and 225 pounds. The person allegedly approached them in an "intimidating fashion," violating their personal space. "You know the deal. You know the deal," the man is quoted as saying. He is then claimed to have told Johnston and Charles that they should leave, unless they planned to buy something or see a Mac Specialist; before they could respond, the worker interrupted, telling them they weren't welcome at all.
"And before you say I'm racially discriminating against you, let me stop you. I am discriminating against you," the man is accused of saying. "I don't want 'your kind' hanging out in the store."
Court documents note that Johnston and Charles recorded the incident on their cellphones. The two say they were "shocked and humiliated," and that the situation only worsened when another Apple Store worker came by. "Now you have to go," the second employee said. "If you want to know why, it's because I said so. CONSIDER ME GOD. You have to go."
Johnston and Charles asked to speak to a manager, but were reportedly ignored by the store's head of security, and so found a manager on their own. The manager subsequently asked the security chief to call 911.
Apple is accused of violating both federal and state civil rights laws. As compensation, the plaintiffs are asking for punitive damages. The case was originally filed through the New York Supreme Court, but was just this month moved to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Damages were originally claimed to surpass the jurisdictional amounts of lower courts.