Wet Seal Sued By Former Black Managers For Racial Discrimination

If you're a female, you likely stopped shopping at Wet Seal when you were 13 (or whenever Forever 21 started becoming awesome), but here's more reason to avoid the mall staple (you know, aside from the fact that you no longer wear metallic booty shorts and T-shirts that read, "IF YOUR SINGLE, SO AM I").  
The Foothills Ranch-based company discriminates based on race, according to a complaint filed Thursday in a Santa Ana federal court. Three former managers claim that senior executives have a policy of firing and denying promotions and pay to black employees because they don't fit the "brand image." 

Wet Seal, which operates more than 550 stores nationwide (83 are Arden B. shops), denies the allegations, saying in a statement that it will "vigorously defend this matter." 

According to the complaint, a senior vice president allegedly toured 20 East Coast stores and then sent an email to colleagues saying, "African American dominate--huge issue." One of the plaintiffs, Nicole Cogdell of Pennsylvania, alleges that she was fired a day after that email was sent out, and that she overheard the vice president say she wanted a store manager with "blond hair and blue eyes."  

Another plaintiff, Kai Hawkins of New Jersey, claims she was ordered by her district manager to hire more white employees or else she would lose her job. She alleges that she saw many black employees being "terminated despite doing a good job and without any explanation."

The lead lawyer for the plaintiffs is Brad Seligman, who spearheaded a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart last year. (Citing a lack of evidence, the Supreme Court blocked that case.) The Wet Seal suit seeks class-action status on behalf of more than 250 current and former black managers.

Years ago, Wet Seal was accused of using sweatshops to produce their discount duds. 

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