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Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Cogdell v. Wet Seal EE-CA-0348
Docket / Court 8:12-cv-01138-AG-AN ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Equal Employment
Attorney Organization NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Case Summary
On July 12th, 2012, with the assistance of private counsel and attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, three terminated black store-management employees filed this federal suit in the Central District of California. They alleged racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. � ... read more >
On July 12th, 2012, with the assistance of private counsel and attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, three terminated black store-management employees filed this federal suit in the Central District of California. They alleged racial discrimination and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 against The Wet Seal, Inc., and related corporations, which sell women's clothing in retail stores under the name Wet Seal and Arden B. Plaintiffs filed their retaliation claims on their own behalf and their discrimination claims as a class action on behalf of black current or former store-management employees (estimated to be more than 250 people). The complaint sought injunctive relief including reinstatement and monetary relief in the form of back pay, front pay, attorneys' fees, punitive damages, and compensation for emotional distress.

Plaintiffs argued that The Wet Seal discriminated against black employees in hiring, pay, promotion, and discipline in comparison to similarly situated white employees. Plaintiffs further argued that senior level company management discriminated against black employees by firing them on account of their race and without cause. Senior level management had pursued a racially discriminatory brand image of white women, preferably with blond hair and blue eyes, especially in markets with a greater percentage of white clientele, by instructing various levels of management to "diversify" stores with largely black employees by hiring more white employees and firing black employees. Plaintiffs claimed that their difficulty in obtaining subsequent employment was due to retaliation for resisting The Wet Seal's discriminatory policies, alleging that The Wet Seal had failed to provide fair references and in one case even to verify employment.

On January 9th, 2013, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that among other things added another named plaintiff and added claims. A claim for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000e) was added to the class action, while claims for retaliation and hostile work environment under Title VII were added on behalf of individual plaintiffs.

Eventually the parties reached a settlement agreement, and on March 8th, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement and other related matters, which Defendant The Wet Seal did not oppose. The settlement would resolve both the class action claims and the individual claims. The terms of the proposed settlement provide for a maximum payment of $7.5 million dollars, which includes up to $1.8 million for attorney's fees and costs and $120,000 for administration of claims. The proposed settlement also covers a wide variety of injunctive relief, such as diversity, nondiscrimination, and investigation training, development of fair job-related evaluation criteria, and dedicated phone line for verifying employment.

There has been a minor dispute delaying approval of the settlement because of an individual attorney's fee arrangements. The Court (Judge Andrew J. Guilford) has not yet held the hearing for approval; the case is ongoing.

Plaintiffs' attorneys have set up a website documenting the case, a link to which is provided below under Additional Resources.

Kenneth Gray - 06/12/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Comply with advertising/recruiting requirements
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitor/Master
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Post/Distribute Notice of Rights / EE Law
Provide antidiscrimination training
Recordkeeping
Reporting
Utilize objective hiring/promotion criteria
Defendant-type
Retailer
Discrimination-area
Discharge / Constructive Discharge / Layoff
Harassment / Hostile Work Environment
Pay / Benefits
Promotion
Discrimination-basis
Race discrimination
General
Disparate Treatment
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Race
Black
Causes of Action Title VII (including PDA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e
42 U.S.C. § 1981
Defendant(s) The Wet Seal, Inc.
Plaintiff Description African-American current and former store-management-level employees of Wet Seal.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Megacases, Diversity, and the Elusive Goal of Workplace Reform
Written: Mar. 01, 2008
By: Nancy Levit (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)
Citation: 49 B.C. L. Rev. 367 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Second Generation Employment Discrimination: A Structural Approach
By: Susan Sturm (Columbia Law School)
Citation: 101 Colum. L. Rev. 458 (2001)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
12-cv-01138 (C.D. Cal.) 06/05/2013
EE-CA-0348-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Damages: 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Class Action, Jury Trial Demanded 07/12/2012
EE-CA-0348-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint for Damages: 42 U.S.C. § 1981: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Class Action, Jury Trial Demanded 01/03/2013
EE-CA-0348-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement and Joint Stipulation 05/08/2013
EE-CA-0348-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Proposed Settlement of Employment Discrimination Class Action 05/08/2013
EE-CA-0348-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Guilford, Andrew J. (C.D. Cal.)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Nakazato, Arthur (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
EE-CA-0348-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adegbile, Debo Patrick (New York)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Boddie, Elise C. (New York)
EE-CA-0348-9000
DeMis, Nancy C (Pennsylvania)
EE-CA-0348-0001 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Fard, Sima (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Fiorentino, Susan R (Pennsylvania)
EE-CA-0348-0001 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Lee, Bill Lann (California)
EE-CA-0348-0001 | EE-CA-0348-0004 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Mar, Ria Tabacco (New York)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Moore, ReNika C (New York)
EE-CA-0348-0001 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Seligman, Brad (California)
EE-CA-0348-0003 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Wakschlag, Shira T. (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Wilensky, Julie H. (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Abell, Nancy L. (California)
EE-CA-0348-0001 | EE-CA-0348-9000
Baca, Hillary Jay (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Carter, James Putman (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Lake, Holly R (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Paez, Lisa M (California)
EE-CA-0348-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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