Retail giant Federated Department Stores Inc was on Tuesday hit with a $100 million lawsuit by a black legal secretary who claims it unfairly targeted her and other ethnic minorities for shoplifting based on race.

African-American plaintiff Sharon Simmons-Thomas claims she was detained by two plainclothes security guards as she was leaving the Macy's store in Manhattan's Herald Square at Christmas 2002.

She says she tried to show the guards receipts for her purchases but was body-searched, handcuffed to a bench and threatened with physical force.

She is now seeking $100m in damages along with class-action status on behalf of African-American and other non-white shoppers who believe they were discriminated against by the retailer.

In a statement, Macy's said it "does not profile, target, or discriminate against any minority group or individual".

It added: "We will not condone discrimination in any form and Macy's anti-discrimination policy prohibits any customer or groups of customers being singled out in any way for special attention or treatment."