All Articles Tagged "Wet Seal"
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.
When Looks Matter: Wet Seal, Abercrombie & Fitch And The Reality Of Appearance-Based Discrimination By Retailers
According to published reports, Wet Seal Inc., the chain-retail store headquartered in Foothill Ranch, Calif., will have to pay $7.5 million dollars to settle a racial-discrimination lawsuit, which had been filed by three black women, who accused the chain clothing store of terminating them because they did not fit the brand image.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, evidence in the lawsuit included e-mails and witness testimony from former Wet Seal managers, which “allegedly showed high-level Wet Seal executives instructing managers to fire African American employees, and “diversify” by hiring and promoting white employees “who fit the Wet Seal brand image.” The case was also bolstered by a ruling by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which determined that Wet Seal had racially discriminated against one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. However, the Inquirer reports that Wet Seal denies the allegations in the lawsuit and calls the settlement a “no-fault resolution of the case.”
The settlement may put to bed this particular racial discrimination case, but it also sheds light on a rarely discussed practiced form of appearance-based discrimination. This idea that it is okay to exclude individuals, whose physical characteristics do not fit the standard of a business or other organization, is the basis of all forms of discrimination including racial, gender-based, and sexual orientation-based discrimination. And while Wet Seal denies culpability in racial-discrimination practices, the idea that the retail chain might have been looking to promote and hire based on its physical image is equally as troubling. And if true, unfortunately, they would not be alone in the practice.
Just last week, Business Insider reported on Abercrombie & Fitch’s refusal to make clothing in sizes XL or XXL for women (nor does it carry women’s pants sizes larger than a 10), and according to retail analyst Robin Lewis, Mike Jeffries, CEO of the retail clothing chain, only wants “thin and beautiful” people shopping in his store. The Business Insider story also referenced a 2006 piece in Salon, in which Jeffries was quoted as saying the following:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Jeffries’ business acumen of projecting and appealing to an “exclusive” clientele might be at the source of how the clothing chain store found itself dead smack at the center of two private class action lawsuits filed by nine former employees, who accused Abercrombie & Fitch of discrimination against Hispanics, Asians, African Americans, and women. According to published reports, the plaintiffs said that they were prohibited from working the sales floor because they did not fit the “Abercrombie look,” and instead were told to work in back storage rooms. The suit was settled in 2004 for $50 million dollars and a Consent Decree, which legally enjoined Abercrombie & Fitch to develop and implement internal policies and procedures, which guarded against discriminating against applicants based upon race, color and gender.
More and more, states and local municipalities are growing hip to the subtle ways in which discrimination operates, including Michigan, which became the first state to add weight and height to its anti-discrimination employment laws, and Washington D.C., which prohibits all forms of personal appearance discrimination. While wanting to project an exclusive image is not unusual in brand marketing, particularly the marketing of apparel, when a company sets its sights on appealing to such a niche market, it opens itself up to creating and perpetuating an environment where prejudice is acceptable. Nowadays, you don’t have to say blacks and Hispanics are not welcome – you can just decline employment, or even a customer base, from those with certain physical attributes, such as body shape, hairstyles, or who don’t look like the cool kids in high school – unless of course you went to a high school with black and Hispanic people in it.
-Thousands of people gathered yesterday evening for a vigil to remember the victims of the mass shooting in Aurora, CO that took place early Friday morning. Those gathered named each of the 12 people killed followed by the words, “We will remember.” Another 58 people were wounded in the attack. President Obama flew to Colorado to meet with the survivors and their families. The suspected gunman, James Holmes, will appear in court today. Authorities say there’s evidence that Holmes had been planning the attack for months.
-The N.C.A.A. has suspended Penn State University’s football team from all bowl games for the next four years and has vacated wins between 1998 and 2011. The stiff penalties levied against the school over the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal also include a $60 million fine (the equivalent of one year’s gross revenue), reduction in the number of football scholarships it offers and the opportunity for currently enrolled and new student-athletes to leave for another school. The punishment could have big financial repercussions for the school besides that fine. The football team is a big moneymaker for the university. Over the weekend, a statue of the team’s former coach, Joe Paterno, was removed.
-Facebook will deliver its first-ever earnings report as a public company this Thursday. The results will be closely scrutinized after its botched IPO in May. Analysts polled say they expect $1.1 billion in second quarter revenue on earnings of 12 cents a share.
-The CEO of clothing retailer Wet Seal, Susan McGalla, has been fired. The move comes after allegations from three former employees earlier this month that the company was firing black employees because they didn’t fit in with the “brand image.” They are suing the company. Wet Seal expects to announce a decline in same-store sales for the second quarter.
-The Daily Beast lists its picks for the best cities to buy a house. Fargo, N.D. (a place few people actually want to live in) comes out on top.
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.
More on Madame Noire Business!
- Behind The Click: Tara Roberts, Co-Founder of GirlTank
- Entrepreneur Spotlight: Wedding Photographer Amber Knowles on Building Her Studio
- How CARA B Naturally’s Founders Launched A Natural Skin & Hair Care Company For Ethnic Children
- Entrepreneur Spotlight: Meet The Women Behind The Groupon of Black Hair, The Fly Cut
- Do Black Designers Skip Over Black Models to Gain White Customers?
- How She Made It: Alia Jones-Harvey, Producer of A Streetcar Named Desire