Gucci isn’t having it with a former employee suing for $10 million over claims that she was regularly sexually harassed by a store manager, and the company did nothing about it.
The luxury brand responded earlier this week to October allegations by Chanel Falasco, a former sales associate at a Gucci flagship in Chicago, that the assistant store manager during her employment sexually harassed her, while higher-ups ignored the situation.
Falasco claims that the manager, identified only as “Byrne,” made “sexually suggestive” comments to her and regularly referred to her as “Booty,” even on the sales floor and in the presence of other managerial staff. After allegedly going to the store’s supervisor to complain at least twice, Falasco said she was told to “brush him off,” “ignore it” and “avoid working with him.”
After that, she claims Byrne exposed himself to and propositioned her in a stockroom that only managers could access, as a matter of company policy. Falasco said she went to Gucci’s operations coordinator for corporate human resources contact information and was “balked” at.
Byrne is not a defendant in the suit, and Gucci on Monday denied outright or denied having “sufficient” knowledge of the allegations, noting that it required all boutique employees to complete an “anti-harassment training module.” An alleged “joke” about the training made by Falasco resulted in an oral warning, the company said.
The company did admit that Byrne was promoted to store manager of a Gucci location in Coral Gables, Fla., but said nothing of the timing of the hiring. Falasco claimed in her lawsuit that he was transferred after the storeroom incident and after he allegedly told her that a subsequent performance review would have been more favorable had she gone along with his sexual propositions.
While a wave of allegations of sexual harassment have come to the fore in industries like tech and media since a history of abuse perpetrated by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was detailed in The New York Times, claims from within the fashion and retail industries have been a relative trickle. Recently, models — male and female — have been starting to speak out on mistreatment by photographers, agents and others.
Gucci argued that when Falasco resigned from her position in February 2016, she “advised the boutique manager that she had a positive experience working at the boutique and a good relationship with Gucci colleagues and never raised any concern that she experienced any of the conduct alleged in the complaint (or any inappropriate conduct whatsoever), including during her exit interview with human resources.”
Gucci said it was aware of the Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission’s investigation of the store after Falasco in March 2016 lodged a complaint with the agency of gender discrimination, and its subsequent issuance of her right to sue, but accused the EEOC of failing “to engage in good faith efforts to achieve resolution.”
On the other hand, the company pointed out that the EEOC “did not find reasonable cause to believe that Plaintiff was constructively discharged,” meaning her claims of harassment and discrimination fail, according to the response.
A constructive discharge or termination is when an employee quits as a result of a hostile work environment, which courts and the EEOC tend to view as an effective termination on the part of the company.
Gucci went on to argue that, as a company, it had “established and complied with readily accessible and effective policies and procedures for the detection, reporting, prevention and remediation of unlawful employment practices, including harassment, and Plaintiff unreasonably failed to avail herself of such policies and procedures.”
Taken together, Gucci said Falasco has no right any declaratory or monetary relief, and urged the court to dismiss her lawsuit outright.
Representatives of Gucci nor Falasco could be reached for further comment.
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