Wet Seal Race Discrimination Class Action

Four Named Plaintiffs brought this Class Action Lawsuit on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated current and former Wet Seal employees, alleging that Wet Seal discriminated against African-American store management employees. The Plaintiffs claim that Wet Seal had a policy and practice of discriminating against African-American store management employees who worked at Wet Seal and Arden B. stores, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They allege that a policy of discrimination was adopted by the then-senior executives of the company, and resulted in targeting of African-American employees for demotion or termination, creation of a hostile work environment and denial of pay and promotions for African Americans because of their race and/or color.

On May 8, 2013, the parties reached a settlement of this employment discrimination class action lawsuit and filed papers with the Court seeking preliminary approval of the settlement.

The Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement on June 12, 2013 and certified a class of all African-American and Black persons who worked as store management employees (Store Assistant Managers, Co-Managers, Acting Store Managers, and/or Store Managers) at Wet Seal and Arden B. stores at any time from May 8, 2008 until June 12, 2013.  The Court also scheduled a final approval hearing for November 18, 2013. The Class Notice and Claim Form were mailed on July 9, 2013.  Class Counsel filed a motion for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs on July 12, 2013.  The Law Offices of Sima Fard also filed for an award of fees and costs. Class Counsel filed a motion for final approval of the settlement on October 18, 2013.

As scheduled, on Monday, November 18th, the Court held the final approval hearing for the class settlement.  Counsel for the class and Wet Seal appeared, as did former plaintiffs’ counsel Sima Fard. Two of the named plaintiffs, the Claims Administrator, and Wet Seal’s Chairman of the Board were also present at the hearing.

The Court granted final approval to the settlement on December 9, 2013. The settlement provides that Wet Seal will pay $7.5 million, including up to $5,580,000 in payments to eligible class members.  The settlement also provides injunctive relief, which means that Wet Seal’s commitment to changes and enhancements to its policies and practices ensure that its policy of equal employment opportunity is available to all and that African-American and other store management employees are not discriminated against on the basis of race and/or color.  These include:  creating and implementing new job selection criteria and procedures for store management and district director positions, posting store management and district director positions, providing all employees with regular non-discrimination training, partnering with organizations dedicated to the advancement and well-being of African Americans and other groups, and implementing a new Human Resources field compliance team.

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