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Ex-Wet Seal employees sue California-based retailer for race bias

As diverse as our streets of Los Angeles are, bias toward others because of their race or national origin still exists in our communities, schools and even in the workplace. We have a long way to go to eliminate racial discrimination in the U.S., but for now, there are certain actions that can be taken to bring justice to workers who have been discriminated against in the workplace because of their race.

Earlier this month, three former Wet Seal employees filed a lawsuit against the California-based retailer accusing some of its high-ranking officials of racial discrimination. The lawsuit states that store managers were encouraged to only hire employees who fit the company's image. The lawsuit was filed by three women who said that they were fired or denied promotions because they are black and do not have "blond hair and blue eyes."

When employers fire an employee or fail to give a deserving employee a promotion because of his or her race, the employer is in violation of state and federal labor and employment laws that prohibit racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

To support claims that Wet Seal violated the rights of employees in the workplace, the women's lawsuit includes evidence from a company email that had been sent to senior executives and managers on March 3, 2009. The email suggested that too many black employees were working at the company's retail stores and that something needed to be done to fix this "huge issue." That same day, one of the plaintiffs was fired. Another worker was hired to fill her position as store manager. The employee hired in her place was white. The plaintiff claims that her replacement had less experience and was paid at a higher rate.

The workers believe that the company began discriminating against black employees as early as 2008. The former Wet Seal employees are seeking compensation for punitive damages as well as back pay and lost benefits.

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

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