Walmart was set to face a discrimination lawsuit Friday after a woman claimed African American hair products were locked behind glass at a California store.
Prominent attorney Gloria Allred held an afternoon news conference Friday.
"It was something I had to stand up for," the mom said. "I would like the glass to go down, and for things to go back to the way it was, where it's not segregated and everything is where everyone can get what they need."
Essie Grundy said she was discriminated against based on her race at a Walmart located at 1800 N. Perris Blvd. in Perris on Jan. 12.
Grundy claimed she went to a Walmart to buy beauty products and found the items used by African Americans were locked behind glass, according to a statement from Allred.
Allred said Grundy was shocked that the hair and skin items were "segregated" while beauty products for other races were easily available to customers.
Grundy, a mother of five, also said she was not allowed to touch the lotion she wanted to buy until she purchased it, accompanied by an employee to the register.
She said she felt like a "criminal," as people were watching her being escorted to the front cash register, not allowed to hold the product herself.
Grundy said she complained to the employee, who agreed with her, and said he complained about this before. He allegedly told her it was a directive from corporate, Allred said at the news conference.
The woman returned to the Walmart once again to buy products, and said the section was in the same condition, with a security camera overhead.
The woman said she was buying a comb that cost $0.48, and was wondering why that item was locked up while other non-African American products that were more expensive were not kept behind a glass.
Walmart responded to the claims, saying it does not tolerate discrimination of any kind.
"We serve more than 140 million customers weekly, crossing all demographics, and are focused on meeting their needs while providing the best shopping experience at each store.
We’re sensitive to this situation and also understand, like other retailers, that some products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products are subject to additional security. Those determinations are made on a store-by-store basis using data supporting the need for the heightened measures. While we’ve yet to review a complaint, we take this situation seriously and look forward to addressing it with the court," a spokesman said.