Fashion store chain Wet Seal, Inc. has entered into a settlement agreement to pay $7.5 million in a race discrimination class action suit, according to the Saratogian newspaper. The suit, a class action, involved several current and former African-American managers of the store, who had alleged that they had been denied equal pay and promotions throughout the company, and in some cases had been terminated.
The settlement in the race discrimination claim came after a December finding by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that the company had racially discriminated against an employee (the lead plaintiff in the case) while working at the King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvannia. According to the Commission, a former Senior VP of Operations for the company visited the store in 2009, and upon leaving sent an email to some associates stating, “Store teams – need diversity Affrican-Americans dominate – huge issue.” When the employee complained, she was dismissed, despite leading up one of the most successful stores throughout the company.
While the company denied any wrongdoing in entering into the settlement, it seems likely that they had significant concerns about trying to argue to a jury that the emails and subsequent action by the company did not amount to discrimination based upon race.
A finding of discrimination by the EEOC creates a very strong bargaining chip for a plaintiff in an employment discrimination lawsuit. The EEOC receives many complaints of discrimination throughout the year, yet issues what are known as “probable cause” findings in few. In most cases a claim is filed with the EEOC, following which approximately six months are allowed to pass before the party is able to request a “right to sue letter”, enabling them to move their claim to Federal Court.
Questions about New York or Albany employment discrimination should be answered by a New York or Albany employment discrimination attorney before any action is taken. There are typically between one and three options – at a minimum – available to a victim of employment discrimination, so counsel with an experienced attorney, early on, is vital.