Court Approval Means Key Changes of Company’s Practices and Awards to Black Managers

A federal district court preliminarily approved a $7.5 million settlement of a national class action lawsuit, which alleged that Wet Seal had a policy of denying equal pay and promotion opportunities and firing African-American store management employees.

As part of the settlement Wet Seal has agreed to make numerous changes to address the discrimination charges brought by black store-level managers and to improve fairness and opportunity for current and future African American Managers.  Wet Seal also agreed to pay $7.5 million in monetary relief, including damages to current and former African-American managers of at least $5.58 million.

All African American or Black store-level managers who worked for Wet Seal between May 8, 2008 and June 12, 2013, should receive notice of the settlement with instructions on how to file a claim by mid-July.  Current and former managers who believe they may be eligible to file a claim can obtain more information about the settlement by calling (866) 276-5221.

Under the settlement Wet Seal will:

  • Pay $5.58 million into a fund for current and past workers affected;
  • Track applications to ensure diversity in applications and hiring;
  • Expand Wet Seal’s human resources department to better investigate complaints of discrimination;
  • Post store management and District Director openings;
  • Hire experts to develop updated job-related hiring, promotion, and compensation policies and practices;
  • Hire experts to develop performance evaluation tools for store management employees;
  • Maintain a Diversity and Inclusion Council made up of a diverse group of current employees that will advise the company on topics including equal employment in recruiting, hiring, and compensation; and 
  • Regular review and reporting regarding hiring, promotions and terminations of minority employees. 

“We are gratified that we have been able to help the black managers at Wet Seal obtain justice. I wish I could say that blatant racial discrimination is history in the workplace, but that’s just simply not the case,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., which, along with two other law firms, represents the plaintiffs.  “We must continue to work to ensure that access to job opportunities is based on fairness, not racism.”

According to Bill Lann Lee of the Lewis Feinberg law firm:  “Equal employment opportunity is good business. Wet Seal’s diverse customer base will be happy with the news that Wet Seal’s new management team is taking concrete steps to treat all its employees fairly.”

Praising class representatives and their supporters, Nancy DeMis of the Gallagher, Schoenfeld law firm said: “It takes real courage for employees to take a stand against discrimination, but this case shows that it is possible for a small number of people to make a big difference.”

In November 2013 the court will review the claims process and decide whether to grant final approval for the settlement. 

The plaintiffs are represented by NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), as well as two law firms: Oakland, California’s Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson, P.C. and Media, Pennsylvania’s Gallagher, Schoenfeld, Surkin, Chupein & DeMis, P.C.

Wet Seal, headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, has over 7000 employees at its 550 Wet Seal and Arden B. stores.