Wet Seal, a store specializing in clothing for young women, is in some hot water. Three African Americans who were former managers of some of the company's stores recently filed a lawsuit against the company in federal court for race discrimination. The former managers sued for back pay, punitive and general damages.
Policy of discrimination against African-Americans
The former managers claim that the upper level division of Wet Seal had a policy of both firing African Americans and denying them raises. The plaintiffs have also asked the court to allow them to file a class action suit on behalf of 250 current and previous African-American managers at Wet Seal.
The plaintiffs have evidence on their side. First, they have a copy of an email that was sent from a senior vice president of Wet Seal which says "African American dominate - huge issue." The woman who sent the email is no longer with the company. One of the three current plaintiffs says that she was fired the day after this email was sent. She also claims to have heard the senior vice president say she wanted someone with "blond hair and blue eyes." Another plaintiff says that her superior told her that she needed to hire more white employees otherwise she would be fired. The plaintiffs have made other specific claims regarding racial discrimination.
Similar lawsuits against other companies
The clothing retail store Abercrombie and Fitch faced a similar lawsuit and the plaintiffs were granted class action status. The store had to pay $40 million dollars in addition to hiring 25 diversity recruiters and diversifying the models in their advertising campaigns.
Recently, Wal-mart faced a sex discrimination lawsuit where the plaintiffs were denied class action status because the court found that there was no showing of a companywide policy of sex discrimination. The lawyers in the Wet Seal case are confident that there is a much clearer showing of companywide racial discrimination in this case.
How employees can protect themselves
The federal government protects employees from discrimination based on race, religion, sex, national origin, color, disability and age. Employees who are successful in showing that there was intentional discrimination can recover monetary damages among other remedies.
Discriminatory practices cover many areas including but not limited to testing, fringe benefits, pay, promotions, transfers and hiring and firing. All government, educational institutions and private employers are covered by the federal law. The government has made it very clear that discrimination has no place in the workplace. Anyone who feels as if they have been discriminated against in the workplace should contact an employment law attorney to make sure their legal rights are protected.