The lawsuit comes as a slew of businesses across the country have been exposed for mistreating people of color in commercial and public spaces, and as renewed attention shifts toward discrimination against people of color for simply living their lives.
“We’re dealing with multiple complaints in what we think is a pattern,” Healey told The Washington Post, adding that her office investigated a number of incidents identified on social media. “Any one incident gives rise to legal action.”
The complaint alleges that Hassan violated the Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law, which makes it illegal for any business open to the public to distinguish among customers based on their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The complaint also alleges Hassan violated the Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits unfair or deceptive behavior in trade or commerce.
A phone call and email to the Tannery were not immediately returned.
The complaint alleges that in December 2017, an African American man in his 60s tried to enter the Tannery to shop at 7:40 p.m., about 20 minutes before closing time. The man was interested in buying a Canada Goose jacket.
Hassan allegedly approached the man and prevented him from entering, asking him, “What’s up, brother man?” Hassan was with a white, female store employee and told the man that the store was closing at 8 p.m.
The man was standing in the entry way when he saw several white shoppers, including a white couple, go inside to browse. None of them was told that the store was closing in 20 minutes.
The man asked Hassan why he was being stopped as other customers continued to enter the store. The complaint alleges Hassan became hostile and told the man, “I do not want your kind in my store.” The female employee said nothing and went back to the store counter.
Responding to Hassan, the man said, “I barely walked in the store and you’re telling me you do not want me in your store? Why? What did I do?”
Hassan allegedly told the man that he wasn’t welcome. He then asked whether the man had a “Black American Express Card,” gesturing toward his pocket and saying he was a holder of the exclusive card. The man understood Hassan to be suggesting that he didn’t have enough money to shop at the Tannery.
Hassan then allegedly told the man he didn’t want his money and that he should shop at a store across the street. Hassan then allegedly followed the man out of the store.
At that point, a white male employee walked outside and asked the man what had happened. The man described the exchange with Hassan. The man told the employee that he hadn’t done anything wrong and that he deserved an explanation.
Hassan stayed outside while the employee talked to the man. At one point, the complaint says, he “made a show of removing his jacket in anger or frustration.” Then the employee turned away without responding.
The complaint also says that in March 2017, a woman of Middle Eastern descent came into the Tannery and found a pair of boots she liked. She asked Hassan about finding a pair in her size.
He immediately asked her, “Where are you from?”
The woman was confused by the question and responded, “What do you mean? I am from here. I live in the area.”
Hassan asked again, “No, where are you from?”
The woman again tried to ask about finding shoes in her size. Hassan turned to another customer and allegedly said, “I love Trump! I am glad he is going to get rid of all the immigrants because I do not trust immigrants!” Hassan continued talking about his distrust of immigrants and the woman decided she didn’t want the shoes anymore.
On her way out, Hassan allegedly yelled at her, “Get out of here! We don’t want you here! I don’t trust your people!”
Healey told The Post that it is important that business and the public be educated about anti-discrimination laws, and that they know where they can report mistreatment. Both the man and woman in the complaint contacted Healey’s office to report their experiences at the Tannery.
“You don’t want unconscious bias, and certainly not conscious bias, dictating conduct and dictating behavior,” Healey said. “The law is clear, but I think people may not know that that’s the law.”