October 1, 2007 —
Dillard’s is the third largest department store chain in the United States. The company operates more than 330 department stores in 29 states. Founded in 1938 in Little Rock, Ark., the company has compiled a long list of ethical problems, including poor business practices regarding sweatshops, and disputes over not paying store suppliers, and the racial profiling of customers, Dillard’s employs more than 50,000 people, reported sales of $7.8 billion in fiscal 2007, and compensated CEO William Dillard II more than $4,000,000 in 2006.
Dillard's was sued by more than 80 African American shoppers in Texas claiming racial profiling. The company has also been sued by customers in Mississippi, Kentucky and Georgia on similar allegations. In Alabama, eight black women who were patrons of Dillard’s beauty solons sued the company for race-based pricing. Lawyers for Dillard's denied that the accusation, claiming that scientific evidence supports the theory that "ethnic" hair requires more effort to treat — and therefore should be subject to higher pricing.
In April 2001, a federal appeals court upheld the $1.2 million verdict against Dillard's in a discrimination lawsuit. The suit was filed by a black woman who said she was denied a free cologne sample because of her race.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Dillard's has a policy of hiring armed, off-duty police officers to provide security. Since 1994, at least six people have died after confrontations with Dillard's security officers. In all cases but one, the victims were minorities. None of the victims had weapons.
In January 2003, a Texas district judge ordered Dillard's not to destroy security personnel notebooks and logs that plaintiffs in lawsuits against the retailer claim may show systematic targeting of minority and low-income shoppers for surveillance and intimidation. Dillard's pulled advertising from some CBS affiliates after the network's "60 Minutes" featured a story about Dillard's alleged discrimination against minorities.