Old Navy has fired three employees at a West Des Moines store after James Conley III, a 29-year-old black man, posted a video showing evidence that he was racially profiled while shopping.
The video went viral, causing the Old Navy location to shut down for one day, and for the corporate headquarters to launch an investigation. A few days later, three employees were terminated.
Conley, who calls himself a frequent shopper who came to Old Navy almost weekly, says that he was accused by employees of stealing the jacket that he came into the store wearing – an Old Navy jacket he had received for Christmas.
An employee rescanned Conley’s jacket to verified it had been paid for. Conley asked a manager to review the security footage to prove that he was wearing the jacket when he arrived. Although the security footage cleared Conley, the manager did not show their face again, and Conley did not receive an apology.
“Don’t ever come to Old Navy, ‘cause they’ll stereotype you if you’re black,” he says in the video.
Old Navy posted an apology on Facebook, saying that the “situation was a violation of our policies and values,” and that the company “is committed to ensuring that our stores are an environment where everyone feels welcome.” Old Navy also used this post to announce that three employees had been fired as a result of the incident.
Conley says that at first he thought he would “remain silent,” but decided to post the video he’d taken, saying that anybody “should be able to go shopping without being racially profiled.” He has hired an attorney and may seek monetary damages. Unfortunately, such incidents of racial profiling are all too common, but in this case, Conley has used social media and his legal rights to take a stand.
In a press conference at the attorney general’s office, Conley described the situation as “really embarrassing,” and “nothing I want anyone to go through, ever.”