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Employees: Wet Seal discriminated against blacks, favored white store workers

Young Detroit women who shop at Wet Seal might find themselves a little less likely to go the clothing retailer in the future if the allegations contained in a recent discrimination suit are true. The suit, which was filed in Wet Seal's home state of California, alleges that the company's executives systematically tried to engineer the hiring of store employees such that more Caucasian people and fewer black people were hired.

The most specific and alarming incident of alleged racial discrimination came on March 3, 2009, when a senior vice president of store operations sent an email to stores in Philadelphia and Baltimore saying that "African Americas dominate" and that "diversity was needed." A plaintiff claims that she was fired the day after that email was sent. She said she was replaced by a white coworker who had less experience, but was paid more.

The plaintiffs want the lawsuit to be a class action that will represent more than 250 current and former Wet Seal employees. They are seeking punitive damages and back pay and benefits.

Lawsuits such as this have been met with mixed results. Abercrombie and Fitch had to pay out more than $40 million about a decade ago to settle claims that it chose white workers over blacks, Hispanics and Asians. But just last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to let a group of women who had worked at Wal-Mart bring a sex discrimination class action lawsuit against the retailer.

Source: Reuters "Wet Seal Looked For Workers With 'Blond Hair And Blue Eyes,' Ex-Employees Claim" July 13, 2012

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