Saturday, September 29, 2012

Wet Seal Workers Sue Retail Chain for Racial Discrimination

 Wet Seal allegedly fired a few African American Employees to fit the Wet Seal brand image. This is employment discrimination and a direct violation of  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, or religion. Therefore, employers cannot base decisions concerning hiring, firing, promotions, job opportunities, and compensation on an employee's or applicant's protected characteristics.

This past August in Los Angeles, California, three former employees of Wet Seal Inc. filed a federal racial discrimination lawsuit against the clothing store claiming that management fires African-American employees because they do not fit the retailer's brand image. The lawsuit was filed this past August in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. These former employees also allege that it is Wet Seal's policy and Practice to discriminate against African American store management employees as well as deny them pay and promotions.

Brad Seligman, attorney for the three plaintiff's said, "Wetseal perceived that it would reach white markets better if they had more white managers." He also said that one of the plaintiffs was told by her district manager that she was being fired literally because she is African American. However, Wet Seal says that it is an equal opportunity employer with a very diverse workforce and customer base.

This is not the first time a retail chain has been sued for racial discrimination. Back in December of 2005 int he case of Gonzalez v. Abercrombie & Fitch, a class action lawsuit was made against Abercrombie & Fitch for the discrimination to its Latino, African American, Asian American and female applicants and employees. The Plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit charged that they received racial discrimination that ended in unequal treatment in recruitment, hiring, promotion, terms and conditions of employment, and job termination. For example, the plaintiffs allege that minorities were disproportionately staffed in the stock rooms and on overnight shifts.

Below is a Wet Seal jean ad campaign

 Similar to the Wet Seal case, the plaintiffs also specifically charged A&F with refusing to hire applicants that did not have the "A&F Look." This look has been described as "white, young, male, and preppie." Also, the plaintiffs charged that Abercrombie selectively aimed their advertising efforts at consumers who had the "A&F" look.

Abercrombie did in fact violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for Employment discrimination. Consequentially, Abercrombie settled out of court paying $50 Million to the class members. Also, as part of the settlement, Abercrombie was required to establish internal hiring and recruiting procedures that encourage and maintain diversity in Abercrombie stores and in material its distributes. Under the terms of this decree, Abercrombie must affirmatively seek out applicants from a diverse background and advertise for employment in periodicals and media that target a diverse audience.

Fashion Legallaire's assessment: When a Fashion Lawyer works in-house counsel for a fashion company, it is not uncommon for  him or her to deal with employment law issues such as this kind.

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