California readers may be aware of an employment lawsuit that clothing manufacturer Wet Seal Inc. has been facing since July 2012. Legal action against the company developed into a class-action employment discrimination suit filed on behalf of African-American employees working out of one of the company’s stores on the east coast. At the heart of the lawsuit are claims that upper management actively discouraged the presence of African-American managers at the retail store level.

The suit went on to detail incidents in which black managers were fired after higher-ups discovered their racial makeup. The company was accused of implementing policies aimed at hiring more white employees and terminating existing black managers. These changes were allegedly undertaken in an effort to protect the company’s brand image within the retail marketplace.

The matter was recently settled. Wet Seal agreed to a payment of $5.58 million to cover relief and damages to the staff members who were fired due to race. In addition, the company has pledged to make procedural changes that will increase diversity within the workplace and put oversight measures into place to ensure that this type of treatment does not occur in the future.

For employees who are subjected to this type of employment discrimination, the experience can feel overwhelming. Despite putting in the time and effort required to achieve a position within management, African-Americans and other racial minorities continue to experience discrimination, in California and across the nation. The outcome of this case should serve as a reminder that employees have access to legal recourse, including but not limited to a discrimination suit similar to the one detailed here.

Source: California Apparel News, “Wet Seal Fined $7.5 Million for Employee Discrimination,” Andrew Asch, May 10, 2013