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Patrice Lataillade, a former Marc Jacobs executive, has filed a lawsuit against company president Robert Duffy, alleging violations of state and city laws based on charges of sexual discrimination and retaliation.
This story first appeared in the March 31, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Lataillade was chief financial officer and chief operating officer of Marc Jacobs International and was let go in September. The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in a New York state court in Manhattan. Also named as defendants in the suit were MJI and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy Inc.
Lataillade said in court papers that he was “subjected to a discriminatory environment offensive to him” and was “fired in retaliation for objecting to that environment.”
“The intentional nature of LVMH’s failure to prevent discrimination and retaliation is consistent with its pattern of weighing public reaction before punishing biased conduct,” the suit alleges, pointing to the luxury group’s handling of the recent dismissal of John Galliano at Christian Dior for anti-Semitic remarks.
An LVMH spokeswoman said, “The allegations contained in the complaint are false. Patrice Lataillade was terminated as chief financial officer and chief operating officer of MJI for serious matters unrelated to the allegations contained in the complaint. MJI, LVMH Inc. and Robert Duffy will vigorously defend the case in court.”
According to the lawsuit, examples of the hostile work environment included Duffy’s “production and dissemination of a book that included photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude” and “Duffy’s use of a nude photograph for a billboard advertisement,” among other charges.
The suit also alleges that Duffy “uses company funds for personal expenses and does not censor what he does or says.”
Lataillade began working for LVMH in May 1996 in Paris and, after a stint with LVMH subsidiary Donna Karan in New York, began working at MJI in November 2002 as its chief executive officer. He was promoted to chief operating officer in 2006. At the time of his discharge, court papers said his compensation package was $1 million a year. LVMH is part owner of MJI, along with Marc Jacobs and Duffy. Jacobs was not named in the suit.
Lataillade said in court papers that he complained of Duffy’s behavior to executives at MJI and the general counsel at LVMH, but that nothing was done. The complaint said that he was discharged “within less than a week” of his lawyers sending an e-mail to the ceo of MJI and the general counsel of LVMH regarding the “legal situation.” It also said that he was told he was fired for cause per his employment contract, but said that the offer of a severance package is “inconsistent with a ‘cause’ termination.”
He is seeking lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.