Dominion of New York


July 13, 2012

Wet Seal Executive: The Stores Have Too Many Black Employees

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Written by: Kelly Virella

Photo courtesy of Flickr/FRSH Pulp


t’s not in my best interest to advise executives how best to carry out a scheme to whiten the workforce. But I’m pretty sure that leaving a paper-trail is the dumbest way to do it, which is why I’m shocked to see that’s how a lawsuit accuses then Wet Seal   senior vice president, Barbara Bachman, of doing it. If it’s true, I don’t understand what’s gotten into people these days. Proving racism is not the sort of thing you’re supposed to make easy.

During the trial — if the racial discimination lawsuit against the company ever gets that far — I can see Bachman,who was the second in command of the company, sitting on the witness stand when the attorney for the plaintiff approaches and grills her about the email she allegedly wrote. (It starts on page 24 of the complaint below.)

Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Filed Against Wet Seal

Attorney: “Ms. Bachman, do you have a copy of the e-mail dated Monday, Mar 02?”
Bachman: “Yes.”
Attorney: “And do you notice who is listed as the sender of this e-mail?”
Bachman: “Yes.”
Attorney: “And who is that Ms. Bachman?”
Bachman: “Me.”
Attorney: “And did you send this e-mail Ms. Bachman?”
Bachman: “Yes.”
Attorney: “And do you notice the part of the email that says “Store teams – need diversity. African American dominate – huge issue.”
Bachman: “Yes.”
Attorney: “What did you mean by “huge issue,” Ms. Bachman?”

Bachman’s e-mail is exhibit 1 in a lawsuit filed yesterday in a California federal court by three African-Americans who are former Wet Seal managers. The lawsuit alleges that the company had a policy of firing, failing to promote, and raise the wages of blacks, because they did not fit the Wet Seal “brand image.” It promises that more damning documents will be presented to the court. Face. Palm.

In case you’re wondering what Wet Seal is, it’s a chain store that should be boycotted sells sexy and funky clothing and accessories to teenage girls and the young at heart.  In 2009, African-American R&B singer Keri Hilson celebrated the release of her album, In a Perfect World at New York City’s Union Square Wet Seal store.

I’ve never faced outright racial discrimination in the workplace, but if I did and the company created a paper trail for me, I’m afraid I’d have to sue. Even if  there were a part of me that didn’t want the stress, hassle and stigma associated with litigation, I could not resist responding to the taunt implied in an e-mail like this. It’s just begging for a legal beat down.


About the Author

Kelly Virella
Kelly Virella lives in an East Harlem walk-up with her husband, her bicycle and her books. She's worked as a journalist for 11 years and started this website during the summer of 2011. She fell in love with New York City during her first visit here as a 16-year-old and finally made good on her promise to move here in April 2010.


Official portrait from his tenure as US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.