Fashion retailer The Wet Seal has denied allegations of race discrimination made by black store managers in a class action lawsuit against the US company.

The lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court in Santa Ana, California, includes accusations from three former employees that the company’s “most senior executives” discriminated against black store managers as a matter of “policy and practice”.

Although the action names only three employees, it seeks class action status on behalf of more than 250 black managers who worked or are still working for The Wet Seal.

According to the suit, a senior vice president of store operations at the company sent an email in 2009 discussing the need for greater racial diversity among store staff in Maryland and Philadelphia, because African American employees “dominated”.

The lawsuit is seeking punitive damages against The Wet Seal, as well as back pay, benefits and other remedies.

But the company hit back against the claims, saying: “Wet Seal is an equal opportunity employer with a very diverse workforce and customer base.

“We deny any and all allegations of race discrimination and will vigorously defend this matter.”