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Post date: June 1 2000

Discount Merchandise Chain Agrees To Clarify Check Policy

Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement with Family Dollar Stores of New York, under which the retail chain will adopt a uniform policy for accepting personal checks in every community.

Family Dollar Stores generally accepts personal checks that are pre-printed with the customer's name and address, along with proper identification, for merchandise of $150 or less. However, the company was accused of refusing to accept checks in predominately minority neighborhoods from customers who met these requirements. This practice would violate state and federal civil rights laws that guarantee equal protection and prohibit discrimination based on race, color or national origin.

The Attorney General's petition to the New York State Supreme Court sought injunctive relief and the enactment of a statewide uniform policy with respect to accepting or not accepting personal checks as a method of payment for merchandise.

"Unequal treatment of customers is wrong and potentially illegal," Spitzer said. "To their credit, Family Dollar officials examined the issue and recognized that the appropriate remedy was to adopt a uniform policy statewide."

By signing a Consent Decree, Family Dollar Stores agrees to maintain a uniform policy statewide for one year. After one year, Family Dollar Stores must notify the Attorney General if any one of its stores varies from the policy. The Attorney General is then empowered to conduct an investigation to make sure that Family Dollar Stores is not violating civil rights laws by refusing to cash checks in predominately minority neighborhoods.

"We must not tolerate such blatant, unlawful discrimination. The Attorney General's aggressive action dovetails with our goals to help ensure full access and fair treatment for all New Yorkers," said Dennis Walcott, President of New York Urban League.

Family Dollar Stores, based in Charlotte, N.C., did not admit wrongdoing in reaching the agreement with the Attorney General's office.

The case was handled in the by Assistant Attorney General James M. Morrisey, of the Attorney General's Buffalo Regional Office, which is under the direction of Barbra Kavanaugh.