Wet Seal’s Company ‘Image’ Results In Employment Lawsuit

09/30/2012 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // San Francisco Lawyer Eric Grover // (press release)

San Francisco, CA — Just like the Abercrombie and Fitch legal battle, clothing retailer Wet Seal is being sued by black store managers who say they were discriminated against because they did not fit the retailer’s “image.” The lawsuit seeking class action status was filed Thursday, July 12, 2012, in a federal court in Santa Ana, CA, reports Eric Grover, a Bay Area employment lawyer.

The Foothill Ranch, California based female clothing store is being accused of adopting a “policy and practice” of discriminating against black store managers at Wet Seal and Arden B stores since at least 2008, because they did not fit their “brand image,” Reuters reports.

The lawsuit alleges that the senior vice president of store operations emailed subordinates on March 3, 2009, after visiting 20 stores in the Philadelphia area and in Maryland, which said: “Store teams—need diversity/African American dominate- huge issue.”

As a result, plaintiff Nicole Cogdell claims that she was released from her job at a Pennsylvania store the day the email was sent, although she had been promoted to store manager just two months prior.

Cogdell claims that she was replaced by a white employee who was less experienced and was compensated more, after she overhead the senior vice president saying that she wanted a “blonde hair and blue eyed” manager.

Other plaintiffs include Kai Hawkins, who worked in several of the brand’s stores, most recently in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Myriam Saint-Hilaire, who worked in the King of Prussia store, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of over 250 current and former black Wet Seal managers, seeking back pay and benefits, punitive damages and other remedies.

Wet Seal refutes the claims by stating, “We deny any and all allegations of race discrimination and will vigorously defend this matter.”

“Discriminating based on someone’s race is not only illegal, but morally wrong,” says Eric Grover, a San Francisco employment lawyer. “A person’s race should never come into consideration when it comes to an employment opportunity or a company’s ‘image.’ “

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