EEOC: Wet Seal Discriminated Against Black Employees

The retail company is being investigated for using race to determine employment, promotions and pay.

Posted: 12/03/2012 04:09 PM EST
EEOC Determines Wet Seal Discriminated Against African-American Employees

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has determined that Wet Seal, Inc. blatantly discriminated against its African-American employees.

A class action suit against the women's retail company by former store manager Nicole Cogdell alleges that policies instructed employers to use race as a factor when determining new hires, promotions and pay. It also claims that the clothing retailer sought out white, blond and blue-eyed employees with "the Armani look" in order to sell more products.

Cogdell and two former managers filed the suit and seek lost compensation and punitive damages for all employees that have suffered due to the companies' discriminating policies.

The Sacramento Bee writes:

"The Determination, issued on November 29, 2012 and made public today, after a three-year investigation, includes the following findings:

-'[C]orporate managers have openly stated they wanted employees who had "the Armani look, were white, had blue-eyes, thin, and blond in order to be profitable."'

-Senior Vice President of Operations Barbara Bachman, after visiting stores in the Maryland and Philadelphia markets, including Cogdell's, distributed an email stating under 'Global Issues' that 'Store Teams - need diversity African Americans dominate - huge issue.'

-Despite Cogdell's 'outstanding performance' as a store manager leading to her store being ranked number 8 nationally (out of more than 500 stores), the Sr. Vice President in the same 'Global Issues' email, claimed Cogdell 'is not right for this store.'

-After the email, the Vice President of Operations directed Cogdell's district manager to demote Cogdell.

-Wet Seal took no corrective action even after Cogdell complained about the discriminatory email, and 'African American employees bombarded' Cogdell 'with concerns of ongoing race discrimination.'

-Wet Seal's 'failure to take effective remedial and corrective action to address the egregious managerial conduct of Bachman and other corporate officials, created a stressful and hostile working environment' for Cogdell.  The EEOC found that these events, 'coupled with the fact, she was employed with a company where managers were instructed to make employment decisions based on race' created conditions 'so intolerable, her only recourse was to resign.'"

Read the entire story here.

 

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(Photo: Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)

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