Clothing retailer Wet Seal appears headed for a settlement after the EEOC ruled against it in a race discrimination complaint that alleged a high-level effort to trim the number of black employees working at the teen fashion retailers’ stores.
A former employee, who is black, filed the complaint after the company dismissed her from her sales position at a Wet Seal store in the King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia. (See “Wet Seal faces class action after smoking-gun email.")
The company fired the woman a day after a senior vice president for store operations sent an email to store managers stating “African-Americans dominate—huge issue.”
The EEOC investigation showed that the vice president repeatedly voiced her desire not to employ black workers.
In one case, she directed a manager to fill a vacancy with someone with “blond hair and blue eyes.” The black former manager of the chain’s store in Cherry Hill, N.J., claims she was told to hire more white employees or else she would face termination herself.
The vice president no longer works for Wet Seal. The retailer denied any wrongdoing.
However, now that the EEOC has determined discrimination most likely occurred and issued a right-to-sue letter, Wet Seal must either settle the case or risk a trial in federal court.
The EEOC has signaled its willingness to back a class-action suit representing all black Wet Seal retail employees.
- When employee gripes about differing treatment, be prepared to document everything
- Concerns during a harassment investigation
- Be prepared to explain your reasonable rationale for firing protected-class worker
- Target to cut 1,400 HQ jobs, employees email complaints
- Unequal performance standards shout—not whisper—disability discrimination