The Tannery’s Sam Hassan Banned From Retail in Massachusetts After Being Sued for Racial Discrimination

Updated Aug. 30: Sam Hassan, owner and manager of the now-closed shoe store The Tannery, will no longer be allowed to operate a retail business in Massachusetts, following a settlement reached in a legal battle regarding discrimination in his store.

In July of 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office filed a suit against Hassan — whose legal name is Hicham Ali Hassan — alleging he discriminated against shoppers at The Tannery based on their race, national origin and immigration status — a violation of the state’s Public Accommodations Law and Consumer Protection Act.

Under the settlement reached with Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office on Friday, Hassan will also have to pay up to $220,000 in restitution and funds for anti-discrimination and racial justice programs.

“We have strong laws in Massachusetts to put an end to the kind of unlawful, unacceptable, and racist behavior that this business owner blatantly displayed in his store,” Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement. “This settlement provides relief to the customers that were harmed and makes clear that everyone should be welcome and respected in businesses across our state.”

According to the complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, in December 2017, an African-American customer attempted to enter Hassan’s Boston-based upscale men’s shoe store 20 minutes before closing time. Hassan allegedly approached the man and prevented him from doing so. When the would-be shopper allegedly asked Hassan why he was denied entry into The Tannery — suggesting other white patrons appeared to be allowed to enter and shop — the suit claims Hassan responded that “he did not want [his] kind in [the] store.”

Also according to the AG’s complaint, in March 2017, Hassan repeatedly asked a customer of Middle Eastern descent where she was from and made disparaging remarks about immigrants that allegedly made the customer so uncomfortable she opted to leave the store. As she was exiting the store, the suit claims Hassan shouted at her to get out and that he didn’t “trust [her] people.”

The AG’s office said it has reason to believe that the experiences of the two alleged victims are part of a larger pattern of discrimination at The Tannery. The office asked members of the public to contact the AG’s Civil Rights Division at (617) 963-2917 or Mass.gov/ago/civilrightscomplaint if they have had similar experiences  at The Tannery based on their race, national origin, immigration status or any other protected characteristic.

The suit sought compensatory damages for the alleged victims and an injunction requiring the Tannery to comply with relevant discrimination laws.

The Tannery filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in July 2017, listing Adidas, New Balance, Gucci, Lanvin, Dolce & Gabbana, Balenciaga, Dr. Martens, Valentino and Ugg among its major creditors. At the time, the company described itself as “Boston’s largest independent retailer specializing in men’s and women’s footwear, designer apparel, outerwear and accessories” — in operation for 40 years.

FN has attempted to contact Hassan for comment and will provide updates if and when they become available.

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