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Fired Black security manager for Bay Area Walgreens stores claims racial and age discrimination

As Walgreens was shutting down drugstores in the Bay Area and across the country and struggling with a theft problem, it fired three Black security managers without giving them the severance payments offered to laid-off white security managers, a new lawsuit claims.

Alameda County resident Marcellus Clark, 63, alleged in his age- and race-discrimination suit filed Thursday in San Mateo County Superior Court that he was fired — after a 21-year career in security for Walgreens — by a newly arrived supervisor “known for terminating older employees once he acquired a new territory.”

Clark worked primarily in a San Mateo Walgreens. His duties included scheduling all the security guards for the company’s San Francisco-area stores, according to the suit.

In August 2019, the supervisor fired two white security managers, both around age 60, and offered them severance packages, the suit alleges. Over the course of a year, the supervisor — responsible for security in California stores — also fired at least three Black security managers over age 40, including Clark in February 2020, with none offered severance, the suit claims.

Walgreens declined to comment on the suit.

The drugstore chain had said in an August 2019 regulatory filing that it planned to close 200 U.S. stores to cut costs, and by the end of that year had begun a wave of closures, including in the Bay Area. While the company had been suffering from what Bay Area authorities described as organized retail theft since at least 2017, the closures turned controversial when Walgreens officials in October 2020 began linking San Francisco store shutdowns to a surge in shoplifting, rather than cost-cutting.

Clark claimed in his suit that he was fired after the supervisor questioned him about an internal investigation of an employee that required Clark to watch video footage from three weeks of recording. Although it was common practice for security managers to watch part but not entire days of footage, and Clark had watched “several events from each day” and found no impropriety by the employee, the supervisor fired Clark after asserting that the employee had been stealing from the store.

Clark is claiming damages of more than $25,000, and is seeking a jury trial.

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