DES MOINES, Iowa -- Retailer Old Navy announced over the weekend it fired three West Des Moines employees accused of racially profiling a customer.
James Conley III's Facebook post alleging store employees accused him of stealing because he is African American went viral last week; the post and accompanying videos have been shared more than 150,000 times. Conley announced he will file a lawsuit against Old Navy.
On Saturday, Old Navy released a statement saying, in part, "The situation was a violation of our policies and values...We take this matter - and every conversation around equality - very seriously."
Drake University law professor Mark Kende says unemployment compensation and legal recourse from the terminated employees are highly unlikely.
"The question of can they bring a lawsuit against Old Navy, it doesn't seem right now, from what we know, that that's going to be easy. Old Navy has a code about racial profiling, there's laws against this particular type of racial profiling."
According to the code of ethics of Gap Incorporated, Old Navy's parent company, unreasonable searches or profiling of customers by any employee are strictly prohibited. However, company officials have not confirmed whether there is a policy requiring employees to scan customers' clothing to make sure the items were previously purchased. The store's manager accused Conley of stealing an Old Navy brand jacket that he wore into the store at the time and scanned its tags to make sure it hadn't been stolen.
Legal experts say Old Navy could be on the line if there was no progressive discipline policy implemented so an employee receives gradual punishment before being fire. Company officials have not confirmed to Channel 13 if the store had such a policy.
Conley will be filing a lawsuit against Old Navy, saying it's not as much about the money as it is to bring about change on the issue of racial profiling.