L’Oréal is battling it out in court with a former employee, who alleges she was fired after lodging an internal complaint about racial and sexual discrimination.
Former L’Oréal executive Amanda Johnson filed a lawsuit against L’Oréal in October. The Cornell graduate and former journalist joined the French cosmetics company’s digital marketing team in 2016. Johnson, based in New York, quickly moved up through the ranks, enjoying international business trips to Paris and was featured on the company’s social media pages.
But Johnson said the company’s culture of diversity and inclusion was “purely cosmetic.” During her tenure, the former vice president of digital marketing claimed she witnessed inappropriate sexual relationships among high-level executives and subordinates, including “young gay male employees” who received special treatment, alcohol and sex-fueled company parties, erratic outbursts by her boss and a male colleague watching porn during a business meeting.
Johnson said she was fired last summer during a conference call after expressing her discomfort. She “naively believed that her opinions would be respected and that she could finally speak up about the hostile work environment against her and members of her team without risking her job…She was wrong,” the lawsuit filed in a New York district court states. “When Johnson demanded the equal treatment that L’Oréal promised, she went from a model employee on the rise to being perceived as the stereotypical angry black woman who was no longer welcome at L’Oréal.”
L’Oréal declined to comment further. But in court documents the company countered with its own complaints, saying Johnson did not suffer from retaliation or discrimination. In fact, L’Oréal said Johnson was actually the bully and was fired for her “abusive and threatening behavior toward colleagues [and] serious lapses in judgment.”
The questionable behavior includes negative social media posts talking about “hating white people” and tweeting about how she gave “minimal f—s about work,” as well as publicly defaming L’Oréal as a “POS [piece of s–t] company.” In addition, L’Oréal alleges that Johnson sent threatening text messages to subordinates. In one such alleged text message, to a more junior-level employee, Johnson said she was “about to crawl so far up [another colleague’s] ass that he will think I f—–g live in his small intestines[.] Don’t you even dare think of coming for me. I will f—–g destroy you[.]”
L’Oréal also claims that Johnson didn’t raise the original complaints until after she lost her job and that during an internal investigation no one on her team verified her version of events. L’Oréal is asking the courts to drop the original suit.
Johnson’s lawyers did not comment, except to say that Johnson’s social media accounts, such as Instagram, were private, so there was no way L’Oréal could have seen posts by her. Johnson’s Twitter handle, @DAmanDaTruth, was last used in 2015, before she joined L’Oréal.