TO: National and Assignment Desks, Daybook Editors
Contact: David Berenbaum, of The Equal Rights Center at (202) 289-5360, ext. 34DISCRIMINATION IN FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS LITIGATION TO BE FILED TODAY BY THE EQUAL RIGHTS CENTER AND AFRICAN AMERICAN CONSUMERS
PRESS CONFERENCE SCHEDULED FOR WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15TH, 1999 AT 12:30 P.M. AT 1212 NEW YORK AVENUE, SUITE 500, NW, WASHINGTON, DC.
Washington, DC, EMBARGOED UNTIL WEDNESDAY 12/15/99 at 11:00 p.m.
Plaintiffs The Equal Rights Center, Avis Buchanan, and Carolyn Kornegay-Belton filed a complaint for declaratory judgement, injunctive relief, and unspecified damages this morning in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland - Southern Division against Consolidated Stores Corp d/b/a KB Toys. KB Toys promotes itself as "the nations largest mall-based specialty toy retailer, with $1.6 billion in annual sales."
The civil rights complaint alleges that the defendant discriminated against the individual plaintiffs on the basis of their race or color by (a) refusing to accept African Americans personal checks and requiring that they pay for their purchases with cash or credit cards; (b) providing them with different and inferior service to that received by white customers; and (c) offering merchandise under different terms and conditions than that offered to white customers. Testing by The Equal Rights Center has uncovered a pattern and practice of discrimination by Consolidated Stores Corp. d/b/a KB Toys against African-Americans in the Greater Washington and Baltimore metropolitan area. Plaintiffs are represented by John Relman, Esq., Relman and Associates and Jeffrey D. Robinson, Esq. of Baach, Robinson and Lewis.
The Equal Rights Centers investigation has revealed that defendant has implemented check acceptance policies intentionally designed to deny African-Americans the right to pay for merchandise by check at KB Toys stores. This policy is and has been implemented by refusing to permit the use of personal checks at KB Toys stores that have a predominately African-American clientele or customer base, while permitting the use of checks at KB Toys stores that have a predominately white clientele or customer base.
KB Toys has denied the plaintiffs - and upon information and belief - thousands of other African American Consumers - the right to make and enforce contracts on the same basis as white citizens and frustrated the mission of the ERC, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1981, as amended. Plaintiffs seek punitive and compensatory damages, a declaratory judgment, and an injunction directing the defendants to desist from and remedy their illegal conduct. After receiving Ms. Buchanans complaint, the ERC proceeded to test numerous KB Toys stores located in various parts of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area to determine whether there was a correlation between the companys check acceptance policy and the race of the stores clientele. The ERCs tests, conducted both by telephone and in person, uncovered a pattern and practice of discrimination against African-Americans in theWashington, D.C. metropolitan area that was reflected in a direct correlation between the race of the majority of customers that frequent a given store location and whether the store accepted personal checks. Specifically, the testing found that stores with predominately African-American customers did not accept checks, while stores with predominately white customers, did accept checks.
KB Toys stores that do not accept personal checks as a form of payment include: (a) Forest Village Park Mall in Forestville, Maryland; (b) Prince Georges Plaza in Hyattsville, Maryland; (c)Laurel Center in Laurel, Maryland; (d) Iverson Mall in Temple Hills, Maryland; (e) Beltway Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; (f) Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, Maryland; and (g) Reisterstown Road Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland.
KB Toys stores that do accept personal checks include: (a) The Mall in Columbia in Columbia, Maryland; (b) Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, Maryland; (c)White Flint Mall in North Bethesda, Maryland; (d) Owings Mills Town Center in Owings Mills, Maryland; (e) Briggs Channey Plaza in Silver Spring, Maryland; (f) Collington Plaza in Bowie, Maryland; (g) Landmark Center in Alexandria, Virginia; (h) Fashion Center at Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia; (j) Fair Oaks Mall in Fairfax, Virginia; (k) Manassas Mall in Manassas, Virginia; (l) Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Virginia; and (m) The Corner Shopping Center in Falls Church, Virginia.
The complaint specifically alleges that Consolidated Stores d/b/a KB Stores is aware that its "no checks" policy as applied to specific stores has the result and effect of discriminating against African-Americans. Despite this knowledge, the defendant has continued to implement its check policies.
"KB Toys has deliberately and intentionally instituted a "no checks" policy in those stores where the customers were most likely to be African-Americans. Consolidated Stores "no checks" policy is motivated by the discriminatory and patently false belief that African-Americans are more likely to default on payment or tender a bad check. In an age of electronic check transactions, this is an overt example of "consumer racism" that clearly has violated the rights of thousands of African American Consumers in the Washington D.C. - Baltimore metropolitan area."
"Being a victim of discrimination I have a responsibility to myself, but most importantly to my four year old daughter. I must stand up for the civil rights that have enacted for my and my communities protection as a member of our society so that my daughter may have equitable treatment during her lifetime" stated co-plaintiff Carolyn Kornegay Belton.
Copies of the complaints will be available at the press conference or by calling David Berenbaum at The Equal Rights Center at (202) 289-5360 ext. 34. Information about The Equal Rights Center can be found at www.equalrightscenter.org.
The Equal Rights Center ("ERC") is a not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of the District of Columbia with its principal place of business at 1212 New York Ave., N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20005. The ERC was founded in 1999 by a group of interdenominational clergy and community leaders to provide a multi-faceted approach to civil rights issues and to create an open society where equal opportunity for all is assured. The Centers initiatives are built upon the accomplishments of the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, founded in 1983, and the Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, founded in 1990, which partnered with the new Civil Rights Council of Greater Washington to form the Equal Rights Center, the first comprehensive civil rights center in the nation dedicated to affirmatively furthering fair housing, fair employment, public accommodations and other civil rights issues. The ERC provides a multi-disciplinary program of private enforcement, voluntary compliance, education and outreach, diversity training, research and planning initiatives for the public and private sector. While the Centers initiatives are designed to ensure greater compliance with federal, state and local civil rights laws, it stands in opposition to discrimination not merely because it is illegal, but because it is immoral.