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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

AG’S OFFICE SUES THE OWNER OF THE TANNERY FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST CUSTOMERS BASED ON RACE AND NATIONAL ORIGIN

AG’S OFFICE SUES THE OWNER OF THE TANNERY FOR DISCRIMINATING AGAINST CUSTOMERS BASED ON RACE AND NATIONAL ORIGIN
Owner of Upscale Back Bay Clothing and Shoe Store Allegedly Prohibited an African American Man and a Woman of Middle Eastern Descent from Shopping in the Store

BOSTON – The owner and manager of an upscale shoe and clothing store in Boston’s Back Bay has been sued after allegedly discriminating against shoppers because of their race, national origin, and immigration status, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

The AG’s Office filed a complaint in Suffolk Superior Court today, alleging that Hicham Ali Hassan (a/k/a Sam Hassan), the owner and manager of The Tannery, violated the state’s Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act by denying service to an African American man and a Middle Eastern woman shopping in the store based on their race, national origin, and/or immigration status. The AG’s Office alleges that the experiences of the two victims are examples of a larger pattern of Hassan’s discriminatory treatment of certain customers.

“This kind of discrimination has no place in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “My office will take action to protect members of the public from businesses that engage in discriminatory conduct, which harms both individual victims and the entire community.”

According to the complaint, in December 2017, an African American customer attempted to enter The Tannery to shop approximately 20 minutes before the store closed. Upon entering the store, Hassan allegedly approached the victim and asked him “what’s up brother man?” and prevented him from fully entering the store.

When the victim asked Hassan why he was denied entry into The Tannery while other white patrons were allowed to enter and shop, the defendant told him that “he did not want [his] kind in [the] store.” Hassan allegedly repeatedly told the victim he was not allowed to shop in the store and implied that he did not have enough money to shop at The Tannery. Hassan then allegedly directed the victim to the door, and told him he didn’t want his money and to shop elsewhere.

Also according to the AG’s complaint, in March 2017, Hassan repeatedly asked a customer of Middle Eastern descent where she was from. Instead of helping the woman, who had been trying to ask about a pair of boots, Hassan allegedly told her, among other things, that he does not trust immigrants and “I love Trump! I am glad he is going to get rid of all the immigrants.” The victim decided she no longer wanted the boots after hearing these comments. As she was exiting the store, Hassan allegedly shouted at her to get out and that he didn’t “trust [her] people.”

The AG’s Office has reason to believe that the experiences of the two victims are part of a larger pattern of discrimination. Members of the public are encouraged to contact the AG’s Civil Rights Division at (617) 963-2917 or www.mass.gov/ago/civilrightscomplaint if they have had similar experiences of discrimination at The Tannery based on their race, national origin, immigration status, or any other protected characteristic. 

Through its lawsuit, the AG’s Office is seeking injunctive relief compelling The Tannery to comply with the law. The AG’s Office is also requesting the court to award the victims with compensatory damages and assess civil penalties.

The Massachusetts Public Accommodations Law makes it unlawful for any business that solicits or accepts the patronage of the general public to distinguish among customers on the basis of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The law prohibits discrimination with respect to both admission into, and treatment within, places of public accommodation. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits unfair or deceptive conduct in trade or commerce.

This case is being handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Carolina Almonte of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, with assistance from Investigator Ciara Tran, of AG Healey’s Civil Investigations Division.

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