Did Wet Seal Fire Employees Because They Were Black?

July 13, 2012  |  

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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