What can I do if my boss wants me to enforce a possibly discriminatory store policy to deter shop lifting?

My manager wants to make a store policy where potential shoplifters are not allowed in the store or not allowed to try on clothes in the fitting room based on looks and not on previous shoplifting incidents. I think this may be discrimination, but what policy should we enforce that is legal and reduces shoplifting? Also, what can we do when the shoplifter leaves and tries to run away? Can I chase after them?

Asked on July 22, 2015 under Business Law, California


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If your employer is asking you to keep an eye out for people who demonstrate certain characteristics-- like bulky clothes, big purses, and nervous behavior-- then your boss is just asking you to keep an eye out for potential criminal activity.  If your employer is asking you to exclude a class of people (i.e. all or most Hispanics or other minorities), regardless of whether they meet the profile of a shoplifter, then this is an illegal policy. 

You have a couple of different options if your boss is asking you to do something illegal.  First, you can contact the corporate Human Resources department to report the minority or racial profiling.  Second, you can chose to ignore it-- at the end of the day-- it will be company that ends up getting sued.  Third, you can report the behavior to the EEOC so they can investigate the illegal acitivity.  The option you chose really depends on your comfort level and conscience.

As far as what you can do when a shoplifter is identified..... legally, a shoplifter can be pursued or detained.  However, many companies have policies to discourage these activities because they don't want any of their employees getting seriously injuried over minor amounts of product.

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