Wet Seal will pay $7.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit that accused the teen retailer of firing black employees to present a blond-and-blue-eyed front in its stores, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The firm represented Plaintiffs in a national class-action effort filed against the struggling Foothill Ranch company in July in federal court in Santa Ana. The lawsuit alleged that former top Wet Seal executives denied equal pay and promotion opportunities to black store managers or removed them outright, replacing them with white employees. In December, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that company honchos had discriminated against Nicole Cogdell by removing her from her manager’s role at a Pennsylvania store. The EEOC’s three-year investigation determined that Wet Seal sought an “Armani look” featuring workers who looked more like “Barbie” and “Ken” than Ms. Cogdell, who is black.
Much has changed in the last year for the company and its 526 Wet Seal and Arden B. stores. Amid sliding sales, Wet Seal purged its board and replaced Chief Executive Susan McGalla in January with John D. Goodman. The new leadership team has agreed to pay out $7.5 million to settle the lawsuit. At least $5.58 million of the amount will go into a fund to cover damages to black current and former Wet Seal managers. The company has also agreed to make “numerous changes,” promising to track applications to ensure hiring diversity, expand its human resources department to allow for better investigation of discrimination complaints and maintain a council of advisors for guidance on equal employment tactics, according to NAACP LDF. Sherrilyn Ifill, director-counsel of the NAACP firm, had this to say:
With this settlement, Wet Seal is attempting to right its wrongs. The fight for equality in the workplace is far from over in America.
Sad to say, this is an accurate appraisal of the situation. We still have a great deal of discrimination and inequality in the workplace in this country. Hopefully, that will change and soon. There is much to do to level the playing field in the workplace.
Source: Los Angeles Times
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