Woman Suing Walmart Says Beauty Product Aisle Promotes Racism And Segregation

Updated February 8, 2018

A woman is claiming Walmart is responsible for racial discrimination the manner in which they segregate their products and keep only some under lock and key. Essie Grundy, a California woman and mother of five, is suing the giant company for keeping the beauty products directed at African-American customers in a glass display case that is locked and requires assistance from a store employee to open. With her attorney, Gloria Allred, Grundy is claiming that such a practice perpetuates the stereotype that all black people are thieves.

At a news conference in Los Angeles this past week, Grundy and Allred answered questions from reporters and laid out the case they are bringing against Walmart. Recently, Grundy visited a Walmart close to her home in Perris, CA to purchase skin care products. She noticed, with horror, that the beauty products manufactured for use by African-Americans were locked away, while other products, mostly directed at white customers were not kept in the same display cases. At this point, Grundy made a complaint to the store employees and was told that the practice was a policy directed by Walmart’s corporate offices.

A few days later, Grundy returned to buy a 48-cent comb from the same Walmart. This time, she was astonished to find that such a cheap item was also kept under lock and key. She explicitly used the language of “shocked” to describe her reaction to this find.

It was insulting to her that she needed the assistance of an employee to get this item, and, furthermore, that she was then told, an employee would escort her to the cashier to pay for the item. Here, Grundy thinks Walmart is going too far – and is crossing over into racial discrimination.

“I just feel that we need to be treated equal,” Grundy said. “It’s no way that we should be treated … just because of a complexion. We are all human and we deserve to be treated as everyone else.” Her attorney, Gloria Allred added that such a practice “perpetuates a racial stereotype that African-Americans are thieves.”

Though Allred did not name the figure in damages that Grundy is seeking, she did say that Grundy’s lawsuit asks for an apology from Walmart and the immediate stop to such a practice of segregation in its beauty products. It is clear to Grundy that this practice is not limited to her location, but is widespread across Walmart branches.

Walmart responded to the lawsuit with a statement that said,

“We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products are subject to additional security.”

They added,

“Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court.”

Walmart also claimed that transactional data at each store location determines which products are kept under lock and key – but such an explanation is unlikely to appease Grundy and Allred.