Civil Rights Lawsuit Alleges Racial Discrimination

Cogdell, et. al. v. The Wet Seal, Inc., SACV 12-01138 AG (ANx), U.S. District Court, C.D. California Courtesy of This national class action lawsuit, filed on July 12, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, charges that top executives at Wet Seal directed senior managers to get rid of African-American store management employees for the sake of its “brand image,” and to hire more white employees. It alleges that since 2008, the nationwide women's clothing store chain targeted African-American store managers because they do not fit the “brand image” it sought to project. This policy was adopted and implemented by the highest corporate officials, including the company CEO and Senior Vice President and Vice President of Store Operations. In March 2009, for example, after visiting several stores the Senior Vice President wrote an email to the Vice President of Store Operations and a district manager with her store visit notes. Under the heading, “Global Issues,” she wrote, “Store Teams need diversity -- African American dominate -- huge issue.” Another senior executive ordered a district manager to “clean the entire store out” after observing numerous African-American employees working there. Two former Store Managers and a former Assistant Manager of Wet Seal are the named plaintiffs in the case. The complaint alleges that Wet Seal had a policy of denying equal pay and promotion opportunities and terminating African-American store management employees across the country in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Cogdell et al. v. The Wet Seal, Inc. (Case No. SACV 12-01138 AG (ANx)). The complaint seeks damages for the named plaintiffs and the class. The class is estimated to include several hundred current and former Wet Seal store Assistant Managers, Co-Managers and Store Managers. See the case website for more information.