Racial Profiling at the Spring Valley Rite Aid?
By Kimetha Hill
On October 30, 2013 around 3:35 p.m. James D. Sloan, a 68 year old, African American San Diego County resident, was in the midst of one of his regular trips to the Rite Aid Pharmacy Store located on 661 Sweetwater Rd in Spring Valley with his son, James Jr. Both father and son frequent this particular Rite Aid as James Jr. gets his prescriptions filled at this location. James Sr. completed his purchases, went out to his car and decided to run back in to use the restroom. He left his purchases in the car. His son waited inside while his prescription was being filled.
What happened next caught both James Sr. and his son completely off guard.
“I was sitting in the chair in the waiting area,” remembers James Jr. “I was watching her [the store employee accused of profiling his father], she was helping somebody and she just stopped what she was doing. My dad walked by me and said ‘I’m going to the restroom.’” James Jr. next says that the female employee had a strange look on her face as she watched his father. She walked from behind the counter with a key in hand, continued past the partition located to the left of the pharmacy area where James Jr. sat and walked down the hallway toward the restrooms.
James Sr. remembers vividly, the embarrassing scene.
“The employee, [Kathy] followed me into the men’s restroom, located in the rear, left of the pharmacy. I walked into and locked the restroom door, relieved myself and after washing my hands, heard then saw Kathy stick her head into the restroom and look surprised. I immediately called out with a loud voice, ‘What are you doing in here? Are you following me? Do you think I am trying to steal something?’ She immediately closed the door.”
At that point, James Sr. expresses that he was very irate. “I went ballistic.” He followed Kathy, loudly questioning her as to why she came into the men’s room when she would have had to pass the women’s restroom before reaching the men’s. As both James Jr. and James Sr. recall, the situation continued to escalate. James Sr. says, “I continued with my loud questioning and asked to speak to the store manager.”
Because James Sr. claims he locked the restroom door after entering, the only way the female employee could have entered was by key. According to him, a gentleman donning street clothes and wearing glasses approached him and identified himself as the assistant store manager. The assistant manager, who James Sr. and James Jr. both identify as white, said the employee in question “would never do such a thing.”
The assistant store manager claimed that Kathy was simply going to the restroom, according to James Sr. James Jr. stood in line waiting for his medication when he heard his father questioning Kathy. At this point, the store security got involved.
“I went to go sit by my dad, and my dad, he was mad because she [Kathy] walked in there,” said James Jr. “She was accusing him of stealing. But he wasn’t, he was just going to use the restroom. The manager was being rude. And the security came, and it was just a big conflict.”
James Jr. implored the female employee to apologize to his father, but according to them both, she refused. They stated their case to the security employees, with James Jr. adding, “And I told the security officers that’s racial profiling.” James Sr. was adamant that he did not steal anything.
Finally, father and son were able to leave the scene. But not before obtaining the phone numbers to the Rite Aid regional office in Chino Hills, California and the office of the president in Camp Hills, Pennsylvania. They both say that the female employee, Kathy, never issued an apology.
The next day, after calling both phone numbers, James Sr. says he received a response from the senior director of Rite Aid, Mr. Mohameed Khan.
“I told him what happened, and his voice sounded as if he was laughing as he denied my complaints.” James Sr. wished to file a formal complaint on the situation he encountered, and after that statement he recalls, Mr. Khan’s tone quickly changed.
“He asked me for the female employee’s name and I told him Kathy. He asked me if he could call me after he investigated fully.” James Sr. didn’t have to wait long before he received a follow up call from Mr. Khan. The senior director advised him that his department – and he himself – could not get involved with the situation, and that the matter would be forwarded to their labor relations department, which would handle the investigation. Further, James Sr. said that Mr. Khan advised him that they would look at the store tapes, which would be considered as well.
But James Sr. said he felt as if Rite Aid was simply trying to sweep the situation under the rug. He says Mr. Khan told him that “he wanted to handle his complaint today and make it go away, asking Mr. Sloan what could he do to appease him.”
During four conversations with Mr. Khan, James Sr. says he accomplished nothing with his case. According to James Sr., Mr. Khan advised him that he could not disclose whether or not disciplinary action had been taken against Kathy, and James Jr. attests that Kathy remains employed at the Rite Aid as he still picks up his prescriptions there.
On November 5, James Sr. received a phone call from Tanya in the consumer complaints department checking to see if the situation had been resolved. He advised no, and she said she would escalate the complaint, according to James Sr.
James Sr. has not since been back to that Rite Aid location, and felt that he has not received any real help from the Rite Aid corporate offices. He has not yet sought legal counsel.
“This was humiliating,” said James Sr.
As of the publication of this article, neither the Regional Rite Aid Office, nor the Rite Aid Corporation Office of the President had returned phone calls on the matter.