New York—As retail workers face a rise in harassment from customers, nearly a dozen retailers have banded together to ask their customers for help in combating dangerous behavior.
The campaign is a collaboration by nonprofits Open to All
, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, and its corporate retail partners.
The group of retailers include Tiffany & Co. and Movado Group.
Retail workers have seen a surge of harassment from customers, particularly as they attempt to enforce social distancing measures and mask protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Workers who are people of color, living with disabilities, or members of the LGBTQIA+ community have particularly been targeted.
“Retailers are seeing an alarming rise in discrimination where floor staff are being targeted for who they are when enforcing safety measures. Given the rise in hate violence—which is at an all-time high—frontline workers are more vulnerable than ever,” said Emily May, co-founder and executive director of Hollaback!, in a press release about the initiative.
These encounters have the potential to turn deadly.
Earlier this month, Laquitta Willis, a 41-year-old cashier at a Georgia supermarket, was fatally shot by a customer
following an argument over a face mask.
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The Customer Action Center has resources and tools, created by Hollaback!, that will encourage customers to practice bystander intervention, stepping in when they see an employee being mistreated by a customer.
Customers can sign the Open to All customer pledge
, which states they “believe everyone—including employees, visitors, vendors, clients and other customers—should feel safe, respected, and accepted regardless of who they are.”
“Maintaining an environment where customers and employees feel safe certainly includes adhering to health guidance like PPE or distancing—but it also means cultivating spaces free from discrimination of any kind,” said RILA’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Erin Hiatt.
The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit provides resources and training on how to create “a culture of inclusion and belonging,” and includes a Customer Belonging policy, an “Allyship and Advocacy” training video co-produced with Ralph Lauren, and a series of allyship and de-escalation materials.
The toolkit will also include information from corporate partner Sephora’s study on racial bias in retail, which found that one in five retail employees said they have experienced unfair treatment at work.
For more information about the campaign, visit Open to All’s website.