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Shaquoya Burns was humiliated when a Ross Dress for Less store manager told her that she’d have to leave the Southeast Portland store because she was a known thief banned from Ross locations across the nation, her attorneys say.

The manager told Burns she had photos and video of Burns on file to prove it.

Burns, a 32 year medical assistant at Providence Portland Medical Center who lives in Southeast Portland, earlier this month filed a $230,000 lawsuit against Ross and the manager.

It’s one of six “shopping while black” cases from in and around the Portland metro area that the law firm of Kafoury McDougal has filed in the past two weeks against national chains and a major shopping mall.

“Discrimination is a terrible thing because you can’t get away from it,” said attorney Greg Kafoury. “You go to school, you get a good job, but you’re always vulnerable to it. Someone can make you feel like dirt.”

The cases follow two well publicized discrimination settlements by major chains.

In August 2014, Barneys New York and Macy’s flagship store in Manhattan agreed to pay penalties of $525,000 and $650,000 respectively after the New York attorney general conducted monthslong investigations into repeated racial profiling complaints by shoppers. In the Barneys investigation, the attorney general found that security staff accused an overwhelming number of black and Latino customers of shoplifting and credit card fraud and that security employees followed minority shoppers around the store even when sales staff had told them they were frequent patrons.

The Portland area lawsuits accuse Ross, Walgreens, Walmart, Best Buy, Lloyd Center and Hollister Co. of discrimination, false arrest or slander. The suits all ultimately will seek punitive damages on top of the non economic damages they are seeking, the shoppers’ attorneys say.

“Statistics show that African Americans are disproportionately subject to traffic stops, school suspensions, and prison sentences,” said attorney Greg Kafoury. “‘Shopping while black’ is simply another reflection of the depth of systematic discrimination.”

In the Ross for Less case, no one from the chain returned a message seeking comment. 82nd Ave. when the manager told her she’d have to leave.

When Burns asked to see his proof the photos and video he said he had of her stealing he refused to show them, Burns later told a Portland police officer. about 30 minutes after the alleged encounter. According to a police report, Officer Carlos Ibarra responded and went back into the store with Burns.

“Burns reported that she did not know what he (the store manager) was talking about and was extremely hurt from the accusations,
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” the officer wrote. The officer asked the manager for the known thief’s name, but the manager “refused to provide it,” the officer’s report said. The manager also wouldn’t comply with the officer’s request to show him the video, saying “he was not obligated to show it,” the report read.

With no way of resolving the dispute, Burns, her daughter and the officer left the store. The manager did give Burns a phone number to call to complain. Burns began to cry in front of the officer and said she was embarrassed that she had been treated like a “criminal” in front of her daughter.

Burns eventually called a lawyer.

Here’s a summary of the other lawsuits filed last week, all in Multnomah County Circuit Court:

View full sizeBest Buy is accused of targeting a shopper because of her race on Black Friday 2014. Nov. 28 last year when two police officers detained her.

Another customer had told store employees that she saw a black woman stuff six Jawbone UP fitness tracking devices into her pocket. The suspect then left the store before employees could stop her, but Best Buy employees started to watch Limage and dialed 911, Limage’s attorneys say.

Limage’s attorneys say that the only similarities between Limage and the suspect was that both are black women, and both apparently were wearing UGG boots. Nyberg St.

“We haven’t seen her place anything in her bag or anything yet at this point, but she’s you know. Obvious signs of it. Looking around often, you know, that kind of deal,” the manager says during the call. “She’s on her phone texting or calling someone.”

The manager grabbed Parker’s arm and told the teen she was on the phone with police and that the teen needed to come with her, according to her lawsuit. Parker opened up her purse and showed the manager that she hadn’t stolen anything, and the manager let go of the teen’s arm and walked away, Parker’s attorneys say.

Parker’s suit seeks $10,000 for alleged false arrest and battery. A call seeking comment for this story from Hollister Co. was not returned.

“When plaintiffs asked the manager why they were experiencing such unwanted attention, the manager replied that her reason was that there were poor people in the neighborhood,” the suit alleges. “The plaintiffs were shocked and asked if the manager identified them as poor people because they are both black. The manager responded, ‘Don’t come at me with that poor you. Don’t come at me with the black card.'”

The suit claims that after the women bought the items they’d selected, the manager told them she’d call police if they ever returned to the store. A spokesman for Walgreens declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.
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