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Company paying millions to settle race discrimination case

The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund brought forth a class-action lawsuit by employees of a teen retailer in Santa Ana. The firm accused the retailer of race discrimination, alleging that the retailer engaged in intentional conduct so that it could have the image of blond and blue-eyed workers in its company. The retailer recently entered into a multi-million dollar settlement.

Litigation began after the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discovered that company executives had committed racial discrimination by removing a black manager from her position. The commission ultimately found that the company wanted to portray a Caucasian image that was supported by former executives. The lawsuit accused former executives of depriving black employees from receiving equal pay and promotions. It also alleged that some workers were fired in order to replace them with white employees.

The retailer now has a new leadership team. This group has agreed to pay $7.5 million to settle the class-action suit. Approximately $5.58 million of the award will go to current and former managers who were discriminated against. The company has also entered into an agreement to make a variety of changes to promote hiring diversity and to expands its human resources department so that it will be better equipped to handle claims of racial discrimination. Company officials explained that the settlement is considered "no-fault" and thanked the plaintiffs for collaborating with them.

Federal and state laws prohibit certain types of discrimination, such as racial discrimination and gender discrimination. When employees believe that they have been discriminated against because of a protected characteristic, they may seek legal assistance. A Los Angeles employment law lawyer may be able to assess a client's case to determine if he or she has a viable claim.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Wet Seal to pay $7.5 million to settle race discrimination suit", Tiffany Hsu, May 09, 2013

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