In California, it is not acceptable for employers to discriminate against employees because of their race. Fortunately, employment laws are designed to protect those who suffer from this type of discrimination.
Employers can commit employment discrimination through unfair treatment on the job, during the hiring process and when making considerations for promotions. In either case, the employee can be compensated for damages resulting from the discrimination.
The employees of the clothing retailer Wet Seal are currently asking a federal court in California for compensation after they claim they were discriminated against because of their race. According to these employees, Wet Seal was enforcing a company-wide policy of favoring Caucasian employees with "blond hair and blue eyes," and dismissing a number of employees who didn't fit this image.
One former employee, who is African-American, claims she was fired from Wet Seal just two months after being promoted to manager. She was terminated on the same day an email was sent by corporate executives complaining about the high number of African-American employees in her store.
Another African-American employee named in the lawsuit claims she was replaced as manager by a white woman after hearing an executive's request to hire a white manager at the store. The replacement manager apparently was also paid more than the African-American manager, despite having less experience.
Wet Seal vehemently denies the allegations. They claim that they have a very diverse workforce and are an equal opportunity employer.
Those bringing the suit are hoping to get class action status and protections. If they are successful in this suit, these employees could be compensated for damages related to the discrimination including damages for emotional distress.
Standing up against a large company for unfair treatment can seem like a daunting task, but employers must play by the rules and treat employees equally and fairly. When an employee believes they may be the target of unfair treatment due to their race or ethnicity, it may be beneficial to explore all available legal options. By holding employers accountable, more welcoming places of work can be created.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Wet Seal Looked For Workers With 'Blond Hair And Blue Eyes,' Ex-Employees Claim," Jonathan Stempel, July 12, 2012