Women’s clothing retailer Wet Seal has agreed to settle a class-action race discrimination suit for $7.5 million. Out of those funds, $5.58 million will go to compensate 1,600 current and former black managers for lost pay and promotions, termination and emotional distress.
The lead plaintiff in the case worked for the company’s store at King of Prussia Mall.
One former executive with the company had written an email stating, “Store Teams—need diversification African American dominate—huge issue.”
Other managers issued orders to only hire applicants with the “Armani look, were white, had blue eyes [and were] thin and blond.” Dutifully, managers began purging the company of black employees.
“Being targeted for termination from a job I loved because of my race was a nightmare,” the lead plaintiff said in a statement released by the NAACP. “Wet Seal has now committed to strong, fair policies because we took a stand.”
As part of the settlement, Wet Seal agreed to track job applications to ensure diversity, expand its HR department to be able to better investigate complaints of discrimination, post store manager and district director openings, hire experts to develop job-related hiring practices and maintain a “Diversity and Inclusion Council.”
Note: It should be obvious to anyone that hiring, firing or promoting based on an employee’s race is blatantly illegal. Somehow, it wasn’t to the old regime at Wet Seal.
Newwith a more enlightened approach took over at the beginning of the year. They will have their hands full with a public relations disaster and a nearly $8 million hole in their budget. This should be a lesson to always run mass hiring and firing directives past in-house counsel.
- Ban comments about age, national origin, but don't sweat isolated incidents
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- Minority decision-Maker doesn't prevent promotion bias
- Beware justifying hiring or promotion with criteria that don't appear in job description