All Articles Tagged "wet seal lawsuit"
If you don’t have a certain “look,” skip applying at Wet Seal for a job. The teen clothing brand has reached a $7.5 million settlement due to allegations that it “horrendously discriminated” against employees of color, because they didn’t have the “white,” “blue eye,” “thin and blond” appearance the brand desired, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The lawsuit was filed last year by three former managers, reports AOL. In the suit, the employees accused the retail chain of firing and denying raises and promotions to black workers. In the suit, former manager Kai Hawkins, said that her boss threatened to fire her unless she hired more white employees. Nicole Codgell said in the suit she was fired the day after the company’s senior vice president for store operations toured several outlets and sent an email to lower managers, “African American [sic] dominate — huge issue.”
Also in the lawsuit, senior vice president Barbara Bachman was accused of commanding managers to “lighten up” the staff in stores serving mainly white customers, and informing one regional manager that she must have “lost her mind” to put a black person in charge of a certain store.
The nationwide chain has denied the allegations and calls the settlement a “no-fault resolution of the case.” In the settlement, Wet Seal agreed to pay at least $5.58 million in damages to current and former African-American managers, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, co-counsel in the suit. Wet Seal must also track applications to ensure diversity in hiring, expand its human resources department, post management openings, and regularly report on the hiring, promotions and firings of minority employees.
Wet Seal isn’t the first brand accused of trying to “whiten up” their brand. Clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch paid $40 million to minority and female employees and job applicants in 2004 to settle a class-action federal discrimination suit. The settlement also called for Abercrombie increase the number of non-whites in its ads, reports the website.
Despite the lawsuit, there’s a built-in bias when it comes to the question of who belongs, writes AOL. According to a 2012 survey of New York retailers by the worker advocacy group, Retail Action Project, and CUNY’s Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies, minority workers were more likely to have their hours reduced without their consent, and significantly less likely to get a promotion.
There’s also a pay gap between white and monitory workers. White employees earned an average of $11.30 an hour, compared to $10.49 for black workers, and $9.45 for Latinos, found the report. The average Wet Seal sales associate, according to employment review site Glassdoor.com, takes home just $7.90 an hour.
How does Wet Seal Inc. plan to strengthen its brand image? Boston.com reports some former employees believe it’s doing so by ridding itself of its African American employees in management. Three former employees of Wet Seal are filing a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the clothing store, claiming they were fired because they didn’t fit Wet Seal’s “brand image.”
The three plaintiffs, Nicole Cogdell, Kai Hawkins and Myriam Saint-Hilaire all reside in Delaware County, PA. While Cogdell and Hawkins held store manager positions, Saint-Hilaire was an assistant store manager.
The three claim they were fired for bogus reasons with the clear basic underlying message that it was because they were black.
‘‘They perceived that they would reach white markets better if they had more white managers,’’ Brad Seligman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said in an interview. ‘‘You have explicit directions from the very top of the company to terminate African-American managers.’’
The three assert that Wet Seal Inc. began the discriminatory practices against African American employees in both Wet Seal and Arden B in 2008. The say that the top executives were directly responsible for targeting African American employees for termination as well as denying them pay and promotion.
The plaintiffs hope to be rehired and paid for pay lost, benefits, compensatory and punitive damages. In response to the allegations, Wet Seal maintains that it is a model of diversity and is prepared to defend its image.
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