Forever 21 may need to be more security-conscious around its employee bathrooms.
A former employee is suing the fast-fashion retail chain for at least $2 million, accusing it of negligence and invasion of privacy for failing to prevent a hidden camera being placed in a work restroom at a store in Providence, R.I., where she worked in 2011 while a student at Providence College.
The former employee, identified only as Jane Doe in a federal New York complaint filed Tuesday in order to protect her identity, claims that video footage of her using the purportedly private single employee bathroom has made its way onto “multiple pornographic web site platforms.” This seems to be how the existence of the camera footage came to Doe’s attention at the end of last year.
It’s unclear if Forever 21 ever discovered the camera, but Doe is putting liability on the retailer for “negligently, recklessly and wantonly allowing a person(s), whose identity is unknown to plaintiff, to enter the employee locker room and the employee restroom, located in the store.”
She noted that Forever 21 “did not equip the employee locker room with any security system/security features to capture or keep a record of non-store employees and/or other unauthorized persons entering into the area designated as the employee locker room of the employee restroom,” despite both areas being designated for sole use by employees.
Finding out she was “surreptitiously videotaped” in a restroom and that the footage has been disseminated online “has caused, and will continue to cause, great emotional distress and embarrassment to plaintiff, according to the complaint.
Doe claims that “extreme emotional damages” from the event should be valued at $2 million or more.
A Forever 21 spokeswoman cited company policy in declining to comment on “pending litigation,” but she did express the company’s general stance on the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit and its actions.
“We want to make it clear that Forever 21 takes the privacy of our team members extremely seriously,” the spokeswoman said. “We have zero tolerance for any type of inappropriate behavior, and we are committed to making Forever 21 a safe space for all employees, without exception. We have been actively investigating this matter, which has involved law enforcement, our legal team, and national investigation teams. We are committed to our employees and will continue to search out those responsible for this heinous act.”
While cases of this nature are rare, they’re not unheard of in the retail world. In 2009, several Wal-Mart employees in Pennsylvania sued the retailer after discovering a hidden camera in a bathroom of an automotive center, which was later said to have been an effort to prevent shoplifting.
Putting cameras in spaces reasonably presumed to be private, like changing rooms and dressing rooms, is prohibited widely, but on a state-by-state basis. Federal law and the U.S. Constitution only focus on a person’s right to privacy from the government or a state actor.
This story has been updated since its original publication to include comment from Forever 21.
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