Reality Check

Threat of lawsuit changes discriminatory payment practices

is not a customer’s right to pay by check, but the motion was denied. Since the lawsuit, KayBee now accepts checks in all of its stores in the Washington-Baltimore area.

What is a customer’s right? It is up to the store to decide on its payment policies, but patterns in policy that change based on the racial composition of a neighborhood make it discriminatory. Consumers do have methods of recourse when faced with these types of overt racially discriminatory practices: Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection. Although they do not resolve individual consumer problems, a complaint can lead to an investigation and possible law enforcement action.

Seek assistance from a local advocacy group: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), fair housing organizations, and human rights commissions. “A human rights commission, will investigate the situation and if there’s a violation, a staff attorney or contracted attorney may file a suit on your behalf,” explains Reed Colfax, an attorney with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Report the incident to the company’s corporate headquarters. In some cases, they may not know what’s going on the local level.

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