Wet Seal Pays Out $7.5 Million In Horrendous Race-Bias Suit

Wet Seal settles lawsuitTeen clothing brand Wet Seal has reached a $7.5 million settlement over allegations that it horrendously discriminated against employees of color, because they didn't have the "white," "blue eye," "thin and blond" look the brand wanted, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Three former managers filed the lawsuit last year, accusing the nationwide retail chain of actively firing and denying raises and promotions to black workers. One plaintiff, former manager Kai Hawkins, said that her boss threatened to fire her unless she hired more white employees. Another, Nicole Codgell, claimed that she was fired the day after the company's senior vice president for store operations toured several outlets and sent an email to lower managers, "African American dominate -- huge issue."

The lawsuit also accused senior vice president Barbara Bachman of commanding managers to "lighten up" the staff in stores serving mainly white customers, and telling one regional manager that she must have "lost her mind" to put a black person in charge of a certain store.

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Wet Seal had denied the allegations. The company, calling the settlement a "no-fault resolution of the case," agreed to pay at least $5.58 million in damages to current and former African American managers, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which was co-counsel in the suit. As part of the settlement, Wet Seal, which has over 7,000 employees, must also track applications to ensure diversity in hiring, expand its human resources department, post management openings, and regularly report on the hiring, promotions and firings of minority employees.

"Being targeted for termination from a job I loved because of my race was a nightmare," Cogdell said in a statement. "... Wet Seal has now committed to strong, fair policies because we took a stand. I hope these changes will create opportunities for all deserving employees, regardless of their race."

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This isn't an isolated case in the retail industry, where the pursuit of a specific "brand image" can end up leaving many out. "There's sort of an assumption about what the employees who interact with the customers have to look like," ReNika Moore, director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund's economic justice group, told AOL Jobs. "And there's a bias and prejudice that's filtering into these workspaces, and it's really acting as a barrier for workers of color to advance."

The Wet Seal case was just a particularly extreme example, she said. "You rarely get situations where it's so explicitly recorded, in email, especially from someone at such a high level in the company."

In 2004, Abercrombie & Fitch paid $40 million to minority and female employees and job applicants to settle a massive class-action federal discrimination suit. The settlement also demanded that Abercrombie increase the number of non-whites in its ads.

But it wasn't just African Americans who didn't fit into Abercrombie's idea of itself; an employee, who claimed that she was forced to work in the stockroom, away from customers, because of her prosthetic arm, filed suit in 2009; and two women said that they were fired or refused a job for wearing a head scarf.

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Just this week, Abercrombie has come under fire for refusing to stock XL sizes, and media outlets resurfaced a 2006 quote from CEO Mike Jeffries. "In every school there are cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids," he told Salon. "Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."

But for many retail chains, there's a built-in bias when it comes to the question of who belongs. A 2012 survey of New York retailers by the worker advocacy group, Retail Action Project, and CUNY's Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies found that minority workers were more likely to have their hours reduced without their consent, and significantly less likely to get a promotion.

White employees also earned an average of $11.30 an hour, compared to $10.49 for black workers, and $9.45 for Latinos, according to the report. All of them earn more than the average Wet Seal sales associate, however. According to employment review site Glassdoor.com, he or she takes home just $7.90 an hour.

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September 11 2013 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have NO idea where some of the people who have posted on here received their Blissful IGNORANCE, but it really is a crime to share it! The perception that ALL Black people are sitting somewhere waiting for a hand out is incredibly assinine, that would be tantamount to saying that ALL white people smell like dirty dog hair when they get wet. As far as Affirmative Action is concerned, it did NOT/does NOT only assist to Blacks. I have NEVER been white, so I can NOT speak from a white persons perspective or assume that I know or can JUDGE ALL white people as being the same. Neither can you racists Honestly speak on the character or Realities of MOST Black people. Everyone is entitlted to their own opinions, but you spout your rhetoric as though it were gospel truth and it isn't! Why or how is it that Diversity including any race other than Black is acceptable to so many of you, but ANY minute speck of Black seems to ruffle feathers. Why is it NOT seen as incorrect for whites to STILL receive benefits from their forefathers who Used others to their benefit to build America, but whites think they "NO other Race!!!" Should receive Reparations for the wrong done!!!!! Every person reaps what they sow &/or the sins of the Father are paid for in full by his following generations. What EXACTLY is reverse Discrimination, if the playing-field were NOT pre-set based on the Positive Advancement of whites above and beyond ALL others there would be NO need for any one to step in and try to level the field. As usual some peope don't appreciate turn-about being fiar play,What is wrong with a Black Girl getting a job she is qualified for instead of a white girl {getting the job just because she is white}. Do you see how Stupid you sound now? Believe it or NOT white is NOT always Right!!!!! Personally I do NOT find it politically/morally/ethically correct for me to be forced to provide for other able-bodied/minded Adults who could do for themselves and won't - "I don't care what color or race they are!!!!!" By the same token I do NOT feel that my Family & I should be denied my ability to hold a position or career because I physically present Black. For the Love of HUMANITY, is there a way to STOP Racial/Ethnic Degradation and at Least try to see, ALL PEOPLE AS PEOPLE !!!!!

May 18 2013 at 3:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"As part of the settlement, Wet Seal, which has over 7,000 employees, must also track applications to ensure DIVERSITY in hiring, expand its human resources department, post management openings, and regularly report on the hiring, promotions and firings of minority employees."

In my opinion, this is REVERSE discrimination. Now Wet Seal is being FORCED to hire minorities, and if a black girl and a white girl are up for a promotion, you can be sure that the black girl is going to win. Tracking applications to ensure "diversity in hiring" is as absurd as Affirmative Action was in the 80's. Back then, I didn't hear any black people complaining they were being admitted into colleges based solely on their color, but I guess racism is okay as long as it goes in their favor.

The ridiculous "politically correct" attitude that permeates our country has created a more dependent minority population that has been indoctrinated to believe they can't make it without some sort of quota assisting them. I would be horrified if I thought I was being hired to fill a diversity "quota", but the left needs to push this sense of inadequacy on minorities to keep them dependent on left-wing politicians to give them a successful life they otherwise couldn't achieve on their own. The ironic thing is, minorities don't realize this is a form of discrimination as well.

May 17 2013 at 5:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Whad Up Girl!

Just walking by the store, I can tell how "cheap" the clothes are!

May 16 2013 at 11:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In 2004, Abercrombie & Fitch paid $40 million to minority and female employees and job applicants to settle a massive class-action federal discrimination suit. The settlement also demanded that Abercrombie increase the number of non-whites in its ads....
When is someone going to sue Mcdonalds? 90% of people in their commercials are black and Ceo of company is black....thats not racism too? if abercrombie and wet seal are guilty, so is Mcdonalds, ALL state and federal jobs, NBA, NFL,News agencies...etc...How about a Tyler perry movie? only white people he puts in movie or tv shows are there to be made fun of with racist stereotypes.

May 16 2013 at 3:25 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to corvettelover199's comment

You are so used to seeing sitcoms like, Happy Days, Andy Griffith, Seinfeld, Friends,Will&Grace., the Brady Bunch, That 70's Show, Saved/Bell (and many more in syndication.), that you get overwhelmed if you see a TV show where whites aren't dominating it. Tyler Perry's sitcoms are in no way racist. .And FYI if I'm not mistaken, only one T. Perry movie (Madea's Witness Protection) made whites the main characters and they weren't subject to "malicious" racism. As for McDonald's, so what if the CEO is black? There are plenty of white execs in the McDonald franchise. Don't you see diversity in their ads? You wanna know why? Because white people aren't the only ones that eat there. You should stop watching TV, pick up a dictionary and look up the word 'racism'.

May 16 2013 at 6:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I agree, corvettelover. A lot of companies have a certain image they want to portray. If I walk into a Mexican restaurant, most of the employees are MEXICAN. You don't see white people complaining about racial discrimination. A few years ago the company I worked for downsized. Several people in the accounting department, including myself, were going to be laid off. When I found out a black co-worker was going to receive a larger compensation check than I was, I went to the general manager and asked him why. We had both started working there around the same time, had similar job duties, and I didn't think it was fair. The manager flat out told me that they were afraid the black employee would complain that he was being fired because of racism.

Black people are quick to blame ANY perceived slight on racism and, because of this, our country has become politically correct to the point of absurdity. Quite frankly, I'm getting rather tired of this ridiculous double standard. If minorities REALLY want to be treated as equals, then they shouldn't be getting any special favors in the process.

May 17 2013 at 4:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People/businesses should not be fined for doing what they believe is best for their business. If I'm selling ladies cosmetics I certainly wouldn't hire someone with bad skin or heavy acne. If I'm selling a weight loss product, I probably wouldn't hire someone weighing 300 pounds. I hate the race issue, that's why my potential new employees don't put their name...they are assigned a number, and we only look at their experience, education and work history.

May 16 2013 at 11:55 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When will someone sue the chinese buffets because they don't hire non-asian looking waiters/waitresses?
Non Latin White = no representation, no say so, nothing...That's not equality!

May 16 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to dwightsauls's comment

dont worry...Naacp will sue them too...then the mexican dishwashers will lose their jobs

May 16 2013 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The other day, I saw a black woman wearing a shirt that read,"Blacks Women Rock." That's cool but I want to wear one that says," White Women Rock." But you know I can't.

May 16 2013 at 9:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cate's comment
Hey Indigo girl

Actually you could Cate. There's nothing stopping you hun. The chics that wear "Black Women Rock" know that not everyone agrees, but they still rock them anyway. So be fearless regardless of what people think. If your always caring about others opinions you'll never truly LIVE.

May 20 2013 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Most of you sound crazy as hell. Get rid of NAACP, black college fund, hire more whites in a black store???? WTF is wrong with you people? First of all, just because you see a bunch of black people shopping in a store doesn't mean its owned by a black person. The beauty supply stores I see are all owned by Koreans and have blacks and whites working for them. Its easy for you to say no more oppression, get rid of all black equality. Well, I don't know where you all live, but where I live, it's very hard for blacks to even think about getting a lower paying job. I have never heard of being overly qualified for a job. That was some bs. Its a lot of places that discriminate againgst black people and we have to fight for what's right. Just like it's a lot of places that have a hard time hiring whites for certain positions. But it's okay for whites to fight for what's wrong. It's not okay for blacks to fight. You all think we just have rights for nothing. There is a lot of racism still out here in this world. Why is it okay for one group to be terrorized and demeaned and another to say okay that's fair? ANd you say it's unfair to elect a black president? Why? It should have been done a long time ago. Not all black folks walk around in the streets with their pants off their butts, smoking weed, and calling people the n word. By the way, the n word DOES NOT refer to blacks, it refers to people being ignorant no matter the color. A lot of people need to read the dictionaries and history books again. But as some of you say, we only need the month of February to celebrate what black people have contributed to the human race. We don't need to know about the first black president or who Ron Brown was and why he was killed and it was covered up. But yet we are supposed to welcome everyone with loving arms whether you are racist or not...... WHATEVER!!!!

May 15 2013 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sexybigchik8888's comment

I don't like movies such as "White Man Can't Jump" or "White Chicks" What if I put out a movie called "Black Man Can't Swim?" ALL RACISM IS WRONG.

BYI--Obama is not black--he is bi-racial.

May 16 2013 at 9:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cate's comment

so is the first lady bi racial

September 15 2013 at 12:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

Ok so lets enforce this and to BE EQUALLY FAIR, do away with affirmative action, ms black america, bet tv, ebony magazine, NAACP, Black college funds NCF and quotas everywhere.
Now that is fair and equal. No more oppression in a nation that elects a black president.. Lets update or do away with outdated policies, right?

May 15 2013 at 11:11 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to measterwoo's comment

totally agree, these actions would be FAIR ..... but, the black community does not want to be fair, they want to be continuously rewarded for something that happened to nobody they know 200 years ago that was NOT illegal at the time and mostly started by their own race ...... but, of course, i'm a racist for saying so.

May 15 2013 at 2:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to AMedicGary's comment

You are not a racist for saying for saying so. You are ignorant and uninformed. And I hardly think you are anywhere near qualified to speak for the "black community" wants.

May 16 2013 at 5:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

chrmgurl99 - Everyone has a right to their opinion, and AMedicGary's perceived idea of the black community is a valid assessment. Otherwise blacks wouldn't be so quick to accuse someone of racism every time something doesn't go their way. Perfect example: why does the black community automatically think a person MUST be racist if they don't agree with Obama's agenda? On the other hand, they will DEFEND him to the death, just because he is black, even though he is the worst president we've ever had. Minorities are quick to use the word "racism" but they fail to see the racism within themselves. Tell me it isn't so.

May 17 2013 at 5:45 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
Hey Indigo girl

Why do away w/ affirmative action when it clearly helps people regardless of their color. It gives these individuals a leg up in a world that's clearly, "It isn't what you know, but WHO you know." It was set in place to help minorities who would've been ignored or outright denied specific opportunities, because they don't have the funding, name, or connections to make it. (Also to absolve some of the effects of racism/prejudice.) B.E.T was suppose to be a fairer representation of black americans on T.V. It was suppose to be a platform for innovation, ideas, and a chance for black entertainers & etc...to have a voice. Now though B.E.T is garbage...seriously.

Ebony obviously a black counterpart to America's magazines of the times that didn't include darker faces and minorities. It discusses issues pertaining to black people in this country that were non-existant at the time. Ebony was a collective work ground breaking for it's time. I'm not sure how the majority see's it, but Ebony helped give a face to the nameless America that was obviously ignored and in some ways still is. Now the NAACP was formed from years of strife and opposition. It deserves to exist and it is a major political power for people of color. I agree that the NAACP isn't what it use to be, but obviously like all groups who hold power they eventually become corrupt. The core is still their in the message. Even if the founding members have lost that idealistic spark they once possessed and are just jaded, but that's life.

As for everything else well just use common sense. I understand your discontent and as a person of color I wish we didn't need to all of this, but it exist for a reason. The world is an unfair place true, but it's doubly unfair to have your whole life set backed just, because you were born the wrong color or have the wrong features. If people saw everyone as people; truly equal human beings, we wouldn't need it.
Mainstream America has always had an alternative one, because it often blots out the one it refuses to see. Just learn the history, you'll see a darker Wall Street, black towns, and alternative places everywhere, because they were NEEDED. These places are gone, because the majority felt threatened and wanted all of our talents, time, and money. Just none of our prosperity.

The point that frustations, hatred, and bitterness stir up whenever minorities speak out, or surpass their "supposed" stations in life is proof enough. As for the story I think places like Wet Seal and Abercromie & *itch do only want to sell and advertise to certain "people". So in reaction just don't give them your money. Don't force a place to accept something they don't want naturally and naturally I don't want their clothing/lifestyles. Now if they're hiring people who aren't their desired "prospects" and in turn mistreat them or deny them opportunities. Then yes they should pay. They are practicing unlawful conduct and being hypocrites.

May 20 2013 at 8:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My Granddaughter works there. What I have learned from her about this companies practices ... I'm frankly surprised this is the only allegation.

As not to sound biased for obvious reasons, she is an exemplary employee, expressed by her DM (District Manager) when he took a picture with her and distributed it to all of the stores within his per view as to what he'd like all of his employees to aspire to.

I'll not list them all, but will site what I know to be true, with proof.

It is mandatory for employees to spend a percentage of their money, NOT a percentage of their take home pay, in the store they work in. If they don't meet that goal, they subsequently suffer with denied working hours. She is also denied even a 10 minute break within a six hour shift, and doesn't dare complain.

I am going to encourage her with my help to report on these actions ... with more than ample proof. This company has gotten away with way too much for way too long. Those kids work VERY hard. Because of the continuing economic factor, and although she tries on a daily basis, she remains there to at least have something. Sadly though, what she makes is a wash because of the continuance of very high gas prices.

In today's world where we all complain about "today's kids* ... it's very hard for me to watch what she must put up with for such a wonderful, smart, and deserving Young Lady. There's not a lot like her these days.

May 14 2013 at 4:52 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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