JCPenney Sales Staff Kicked Dad Helping Disabled Daughter Out Of Fitting Room

Here’s a consumer quandary for the ages, where both sides have compelling arguments. Robert was shopping at JCPenney with his daughter, who is a preteen and intellectually disabled. The problem is that store policy dictates that there are no men allowed in the women’s fitting rooms for privacy reasons and, as an employee explained, to keep out “sex offenders.”

That’s fair, but not very inclusive: after all, not every girl has a mother living or living with her, and the same with boys and fathers. This incident occurred in a state where same-sex marriage and adoption are legal, as well.

Both my wife and I work very hard to foster our daughter’s abilities and independence, but because she is intellectually disabled, there are often times she needs some extra help. And this day was certainly one of those occasions.

While assisting her in the JCPenney fitting room (trying on a variety [of]clothes), I was approached by a female sales associate, who informed me (actually scolded), that (as a man) I was not allowed to be present in the fitting room with my daughter.

The Sales associate went on further to explain that, JCPenney has this policy in place for a variety of reasons (privacy among others) but primarily to protect shoppers from the likes of “pedophiles and sex offenders”. I’d also like to add, that during the whole time in the fitting room with my daughter there were no other customers present, and the sales Associate confirmed that no one had complained. I was offered no alternative accommodation, and was told to just simply vacate the fitting room.

My daughter and I felt humiliated.

I approached the cashier desk, asked to speak with the manager and was approached by the floor manager, who did in fact confirm that this was JCPenney’s official policy.

But she expanded further, and stated that it is JC Penny’s policy that Parents, who are of opposite gender to the respective child, are prohibited from the fitting rooms assigned to those children.

I was stunned, surprised and embarrassed. I’m well acquainted and have spent many hours over the years in this same girls fitting room while assisting all 3 of my daughters, ages 7, 9 and 11 and yet, had never encountered this issue before.

My wife also, had never encountered any problems like this when assisting our 9 year old son in his gender assigned fitting room on the many occasions over several years at this very same JC Penny’s location.

So, I asked to speak with the general manager and after a brief wait, was approached by the Assistant Store Manager.

While his approach was conciliatory and more accommodating, he wasn’t able to confirm any corporate policy regarding this issue.

He accepted my name and contact information and promised to look in to it and get back to me, to clear up any confusion regarding JCPenney policy. I have yet to receive any response from him, or anyone else from the store.

I’ve also called JCPenney corporate office in Lubbock Texas, asking questions, offering concerns and lodging a complaint about this incident. I was offered no specifics or confirmation on fitting room policy and haven’t yet received any further response.

Robert contacted a company representative using the iPhone app TalkTo who confirmed the opposite-gender fitting room ban, but wouldn’t identify themself.

In fairness to JCPenney, I understand that other retailers are challenged by similar issues encountered by my daughter and I that day. I’m not inclined to embarrass, or cause harm to them, I simply would like to receive a straight answer and have an understanding of how my daughter and I could be accommodated in the future.

I appreciate the fact that JCPenneys has displayed some level of courage with significant and progressive attempts in their marketing, as well as simplifying pricing structures. Those are some of the things that attracted me as a customer.

We had selected $123.00 worth of clothes for my daughter that day. And in the end we left the store empty handed. My daughter was disappointed and devastated. I was embarrassed, exhausted and aggravated.

JCPenneys earned my $123 and had deserved it by doing some bright and innovative things.

The assistant manager offered a $50 gift card which I declined. With 4 children, we certainly could have put it to good use.

JCPenney hasn’t responded to Robert’s complaint, maybe because they have enough problems already. Still, driving away a family with four growing children isn’t a very good business practice.

It’s curious that no one thought this through: after all, the chain quietly but prominently featured a two-dad family with a daughter in their Father’s Day ad in 2012.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.