Fashion Law

Wet Seal to Pay $7.5 million to Settle Race Discrimination Suit #Fashionlaw

How ironic. When I began my foray into the fashion industry, I began through modeling. Next, I spent my time through college working for several retail stores one of which was Wet Seal. I liked Wet Seal. At the time, Wet Seal was a great and fun store to work for and the practices that are now alleged, of which they have been found guilty of, was not one that I saw or experienced. It goes without saying that retailers need to be in compliance with the law to avoid both  the huge financial liability that Wet Seal will suffer in this case and of course the bad reputation that follows.

Ladybrillers, what are your thoughts on this case?

-Uduak Oduok

“Wet Seal will pay $7.5 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit that accused the teen retailer of firing  black employees to present a blond-and-blue-eyed front in its stores, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The firm represented plaintiffs in a national class-action effort filed against the struggling Foothill Ranch company in July in federal court in Santa Ana.

The lawsuit alleged that former top Wet Seal executives denied equal pay and promotion opportunities to black store managers or removed them outright, replacing them with white employees.

In December, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that company honchos had discriminated against Nicole Cogdell by removing her from her manager’s role at a Pennsylvania store.

The EEOC’s three-year investigation determined that Wet Seal sought an “Armani look” featuring workers who looked more like Barbie and Ken than Cogdell, who is black.

Much has changed in the last year for the company and its 526 Wet Seal and Arden B. stores.

Amid sliding sales, Wet Seal purged its board and replaced Chief Executive Susan McGalla in January with John D. Goodman.

The new leadership team has agreed to shell out $7.5 million to settle the lawsuit, according to the NAACP firm. At least $5.58 million of the amount will go into a fund to cover damages to black current and former Wet Seal managers.

The company has also agreed to make “numerous changes,” promising to track applications to ensure hiring diversity, expand its human resources department to allow for better investigation of discrimination complaints and maintain a council of advisors for guidance on equal employment tactics, according to NAACP LDF.

“With this settlement, Wet Seal is attempting to right its wrongs.” said Sherrilyn Ifill, director-counsel of the NAACP firm. “The fight for equality in the workplace is far from over in America. . .”

Tiffany Hsu/LA Times has the full story.

Ms. Uduak Oduok is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille® Magazine. She is also a Practicing Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, where her practice areas include Business Litigation and Fashion & Entertainment Law. She has counseled a range of clients from musicians, models, actors and actresses to designers on numerous areas of the law including contracts, business law, fashion and entertainment law, copyright, trademark i.e. intellectual property law. She can be reached at ([email protected]) to share/pitch your fashion law related stories for a feature on Ladybrille. All other inquiries, please visit the  page for appropriate contact email.


DISCLAIMER: Nothing herein forms an attorney-client relationship. The legal commentary& analysis provided on Ladybrille is for informational purposes only and is not meant nor should be construed to be legal advice.

Ms. Uduak

Ms. Uduak is best known as an advocate who uses the tools of media and the law to help creatives and businesses clearly articulate their true brand identities, and communicate it to the world through their products and services, to maximize profits. She is a lawyer, speaker, author, journalist, and recognized thought leader, and trailblazer for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States.  She is also the founder and publisher of Ladybrille® Magazine, and an Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, where her practice focuses on Fashion, Business, & Entertainment Law and Trials. For more information about her, visit

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