Former Workers Allege Employer Had 'Policy of Discrimination'

While the specialty clothing retailer Wet Seal claims that they are an "equal opportunity employer," the allegations they face from a wave of employees say otherwise. Three employees have filed a lawsuit against the company after they were let go due to a "policy and practice" of discrimination.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status so that hundreds of other employees terminated under such wrongful and controversial circumstances can join the suit. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively barred employees who were fired (from various locations and under, presumably, different conditions) from suing as a collective. But, if the suit is deemed class-action, they may have found a loophole in the decision.

Some of the evidence gathered by the former employees is scathing. On March 3, 2009, a senior official at Wet Seal sent an email out to many other employees that insinuated the company's black employees were becoming a "huge issue."

On the same day, a black store manager was fired for no apparent reason, even though she was promoted to the managerial position two months before. Her replacement? A white manager who had less experience yet still managed a higher pay grade. The fired manager also overheard higher-ups claiming they wanted someone with "blond hair and blue eyes" to replace her.

Discrimination in the workplace is illegal and most of the time, if not every time, it leaves the wronged party upset and embarrassed. Losing out on a new job or being fired from a current one based on discriminatory factors (like race, religion or gender, to name a few) can emotionally devastate a person, let alone impact their professional development and their ability to earn a fair wage.

Source: Reuters, "Wet Seal Looked For Workers With 'Blond Hair And Blue Eyes,' Ex-Employees Claim," Jonathan Stempel, July 12, 2012