Retail syndicate develops tools to protect workers from harassment

New resources will help retailers and their customers become better allies to minority employees

Open to All, a US non-profit anti-discrimination campaign, has announced its ‘Inclusive Retail’ initiative that offers resources to retailers to prevent frontline workers from experiencing discrimination.

Protecting retail workers from discrimination

The initiative offers two new resources, including ‘The Customer Action Center’ and the ‘Open to All Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit’ developed to support frontline workers who have to enforce public health and safety measures while risking “potential hostility or discrimination”. Especially where minority workers, including women, people of colour, LGBT+ people, religious minorities and those with disabilities, could be most at risk.

The tools available for retailers

The Customer Action Center features tools “that empower customers to practice bystander intervention and effective allyship” if they see a retail employee being mistreated by a customer. The “bystander intervention tools” were created by Hollaback!, which designs and distributes training and campaigns against street harassment.

Customers can also sign the ‘Open to All Customer Pledge’ to declare that they “believe everyone—including employees, visitors, vendors, clients, and other customers—should feel safe, respected, and accepted regardless of who they are.”

The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit contains resources and training to “help retail environments create a culture of inclusion and belonging.” There’s also an “Allyship and Advocacy” training video co-produced with Ralph Lauren and “a series of allyship and de-escalation materials.”

The Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit incorporates cosmetic retailer Sephora’s US study on ‘Racial Bias in Retail’, which found that one in five retail employees have faced unfair treatment at work, either by co-workers or customers, based on their race. It also found that Black retail customers are 2.5x more likely than white shoppers to experience unfair treatment based on their skin colour. As a result, Sephora decided to partner with Open to All to implement anti-racism tactics.

In the UK, a 2018 study found that the retail sector had the highest number of businesses that were “unlikely” to hire a transgender person. This, compounded with the fact that LGBTQ+ people are likely to hide their identity at work for fear of discrimination, shows that retailers must also do more to recruit and protect LGBT+ workers.

The retail businesses that are involved

The initiative is a collaboration between Open to All, anti-harassment nonprofit Hollaback! and trade association the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), as well as major retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, Capri Holdings, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Gap Inc., H&M, Michaels, Movado Group, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, and Tiffany & Company.

Emily May, Co-founder and Executive Director of Hollaback!, said: “Retailers are seeing an alarming rise in discrimination where floor staff are being targeted for who they are when enforcing safety measures. Given the rise in hate violence—which is at an all-time high—frontline workers are more vulnerable than ever. We are working closely with businesses to address this crisis, and we are thrilled to partner with Open to All to provide greater access to our resources.”

Calla Devlin Rongerude, Director of Open to All, added: “The pandemic has highlighted the invaluable role of frontline workers, who over the past year have kept the economy open at great personal risk. Our Inclusive Retail campaign works to make retail environments welcoming, safe, and inclusive for employees and customers. We are excited to debut the Customer Pledge and Customer Action Center and invite consumers to learn more about how we all can make retail spaces safe and inclusive for all.”

Chris Nelson, Senior Vice President of Asset Protection at Gap Inc, said: “Our purpose at Gap Inc. is to be Inclusive by design, and this comes to life by actively creating an environment where everyone is welcome. We believe that when you decide that inclusion isn’t optional, not only do the gaps between us close, but a whole new world of possibilities opens.

“We aspire to bring this to life in all of our stores and facilities and for Gap Inc. to be known as a safe, inclusive place for all. We also know that true change happens as a collective. That is why we supported Open to All in creating the Inclusive Retail Business Toolkit to help the entire retail industry to design experiences with inclusion in mind.”

RILA’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Erin Hiatt added: “Retailers are committed to creating an in-store experience that is welcoming and, most importantly, safe for all visitors. Maintaining an environment where customers and employees feel safe certainly includes adhering to health guidance like PPE or distancing—but it also means cultivating spaces free from discrimination of any kind. These new toolkits developed by Open to All will be valuable resources to support the industry’s commitment to both.”
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