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Families Sue Albertsons for Harassment

DENVER - Two area families have brought suit this week against Albertsons, Inc. in Adams County District Court, alleging ethnically based harassment.

In one complaint Marcus Lucero, 16, who is Hispanic, and his half-brother, Jake Miracle, 11, who is Caucasian, claim that an employee gave them a dollar bill defaced by a swastika and death threats. The lawsuit alleges that the brothers were purchasing garlic bread at the Albertsons in Northglenn in July 2003, when a female cashier handed Lucero his change, remarking that her manager told her to "give this to the next homeboy that walks in." The boys and their parents, David and Diane Miracle, are seeking unspecified damages for ethnic intimidation, negligence, and infliction of emotional distress, among other claims.

In the other suit Mark Riley and his daughters Misha, 17, and D'Jea, 16, who are African-American, allege such claims as ethnic intimidation, negligence, infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, and false reporting. The Rileys contend that after an autumn 2002 confrontation over a package of coffee, which Mark Riley says he brought to the Albertsons in Thornton to return, only to be accused of stealing the item, a worker followed him and his children through the store on several subsequent occasions, harassing them and ordering them to go. The family additionally claims that the worker kicked Mark Riley and falsely reported to police that the Rileys had caused a disturbance.

Attorney Gage Fellows of the Denver law firm Corry & Fellows, which is representing both sets of plaintiffs, told Progressive Grocer that it was a "definite possibility" that the lawsuits indicated a pattern of discrimination at Albertsons stores in the Denver metro area, noting that he has heard of other local incidents and that additional complaints could be filed as more people come forward. "Something's going on there that's not right," he said of Albertsons.

Fellows additionally pointed out what he deemed the company's inadequate response to the allegations. For example, he said the chain would not agree to undergo ethnic sensitivity training, and he believed the cashier in the Lucero/Miracle incident had not been fired for her behavior.

A call to Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons by Progressive Grocer was not returned at presstime.
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