Wet Seal management systematically fired African-American employees because their look – namely the color of their skin – did not fit the brand’s image, according to a recently-filed racial discrimination lawsuit against the clothing retailer in California. Two former Wet Seal store managers and one assistant manager are attempting to bring the lawsuit on behalf of all African-Americans formerly employed and wrongfully terminated by the retailer.
According to the lawsuit, the California company instructed managers to fire African-American employees and replace them with white workers. The shift in the racial makeup of the store personnel was aimed at appealing to more white shoppers and creating a workforce more in line with the Wet Seal brand image.
One of the former African-American store managers claims that she was told she was being fired specifically because she was not white.
The lawsuit is requesting that the three former Wet Seal employees be reinstated to their previous positions. They are also seeking back pay for lost wages and benefits as well as punitive damages. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status in order to represent the claims of all similarly-situated African American Wet Seal employees who were let go or passed over for promotions or pay increases because of the color of their skin.
Wet Seal denies that it engaged in race-based employment discrimination. “Wet Seal is an equal opportunity employer with a very diverse workforce and customer base,” noted the company in an official statement regarding the racial discrimination lawsuit.
Source: SFGate, “Wet Seal workers sue retailer for discrimination,” Alex Veiga, July 12, 2012