T.J. Maxx Apologizes for Racially Profiling Connecticut Family

Discount retailer T.J. Maxx apologized to a family from Connecticut who stated they were racially profiled by store employees.

Melissa Askew-Ferris told WFSB-TV that she and her three sons were shopping at one of the retailer’s stores in Wethersfield, Connecticut earlier this month when the incident occurred. She said other customers noticed that the store’s employees were following her and her family, which caused them to leave the store. Askew-Ferris, who is Black, later learned that an employee mistakenly identified one of her sons as someone who reportedly was stealing from the store. After viewing the surveillance video, she says the suspect in question looks nothing like her son.

“To have this actually happen now, now I worry about not being in the store with them. I want to be there,” Askew-Ferris told the news station.

The mother told WFSB-TV that she called T.J. Maxx’s corporate office following the incident to demand an apology and that immediate action be taken on the manner. Askew-Ferris said she wants store employees to undergo some kind of cultural diversity training.

In a statement to The North Star, a spokesperson from the company said they have apologized to the family and stated that their employees will complete another round of unconscious bias training to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.

“At T.J. Maxx, we are deeply committed to fostering an inclusive environment in our stores in which both our customers and Associates are treated with dignity and respect. We have met with and sincerely apologized to our customer that this was not what she or her sons experienced when they visited our store recently. We also discussed with them the actions we are taking going forward,” the statement read. “We know we can do better in this store, and as such we are conducting Associate training again in this region to reemphasize our expectations for customer relations.”

This is not the first incident this month where a Black family has said they were racially profiled. At a cidery in New York earlier this month, a Black woman says she and her fiancé were racially profiled by the establishment’s security guards.

Cathy-Marie Hamlet wrote on Facebook that she, her fiancé, and a group of friends drove to Walden, New York to Angry Orchard to celebrate her fiancé’s 40th birthday. While sitting outside of the cidery’s gift shop, a female security guard approached them and accused her fiancé, Clyde Jackson, of stealing a T-shirt from the store and pocketing it. Hamlet, 32, wrote that after Jackson emptied his pockets and the security guard left, he began his proposal. Midway through the proposal, the security guard returned and asked to see Hamlet’s purse, even though it was too small to accomodate a T-shirt inside. Despite this, the 32-year-old emptied her purse and then asked the security guard if she and Jackson were being searched because they were the only Black people at the establishment. The security guard denied this and walked away. After the second interaction with the security guard, Jackson popped the question and she said yes. While the group of friends celebrated, the same security guard returned, stating that she did not know Jackson and Hamlet were part of a group and that she had to check all of their friends for the missing T-shirt. Hamlet previously told NBC News that the security guards then became more aggressive and one of them instructed another employee to call the police. “It started to get confrontational and I wasn’t interested in waiting around for the police because we didn’t know what would happen,” Hamlet previously told the news station.

Before leaving, security reportedly took her picture, pictures of the group, and of her license plate. She wrote on Facebook that they decided to leave instead of continuing to be harassed “by the multiple security guards of Angry Orchard.”

“I have never been so humiliated in my life, myself and some of my friends left Angry Orchard in tears,” Hamlet previously wrote. “On what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life, I was chased out of Angry Orchard by security who followed us all the way to the parking lot.”

Following the incident, Angry Orchard released a statement on Twitter, apologizing to Hamlet and her friends. They also noted that they “replaced the security team members and the manager who was on duty.”

“We’re deeply sorry that our guests were mistreated,” the statement read. “This event does not reflect our company values of respect for all and creating a welcoming environment for our guests, and while we wish this did not occur at all, we are treating this moment as a valuable learning experience for our staff.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.