LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against Target Corp. by a Black former employee of the retail chain who sued for racial discrimination, alleging her ethnicity played a role in her being falsely accused of a theft that led to her 2020 wrongful firing.
Aaliyah Shepherd's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations also included gender and race harassment, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Target lawyers subsequently filed an anti-SLAPP motion, asking Judge Lia Martin to dismiss the case on grounds the investigation Target undertook of Sheperd's conduct involving perceived threats was constitutionally protected activity .
Martin heard arguments on Jan. 9 and ruled in Target's favor two days later, saying Sheperd's lawyers had not shown any of Target's actions were illegal or exempt from anti-SLAPP protection.
According to her suit, Shepherd, then an 18-year-old incoming student at San Jose State University, was hired for a part-time seasonal job at Target's Inglewood store in late October 2020. She was given cashier training and an employee handbook, but was not instructed on Target's loss prevention policy, the suit filed in December 2021 stated.
Two months later, a Target loss prevention employee told Shepherd that store security cameras showed she had either given away or voided merchandise for a customer, the suit stated. Shepherd had processed a merchandise return and had given the customer a refund, but forgot to put the returned item in a bin to be later put back on a store shelf, the suit stated.
"Defendants falsely accused plaintiff of conspiring with the customer to return his/her payment and allow the customer to keep the merchandise," the suit stated. "Plaintiff was shocked and immediately denied the conduct, denied conspiring with anyone and demanded to see the video that (purported) to depict plaintiff's dishonesty."
Pressured by the loss prevention officer and an Inglewood police officer to sign a document admitting to theft, Shepherd did so in fear she would otherwise be arrested and prosecuted and that her college career would be jeopardized, the suit states.
Shepherd was immediately fired after signing and later received letters from law firms representing Target seeking restitution and civil damages stemming from the transaction with the customer, the suit stated. She paid part of the money demanded and believes her treatment was racially motivated, the suit stated.