Tapestry Inc. is taking aim at the Stuart Weitzman executive whose sexual harassment claims led to the ouster of creative director Giovanni Morelli. The company has now filed its own lawsuit against Thomas Gibb, a brand vice president.
Tapestry is accusing Gibb of breach of contract, duty of loyalty and diversion of corporate opportunities, alleging he has maintained “extensive involvement” with flip-flop sandal manufacturer Tidal New York. The company claims that Gibbs “misappropriated” plans for a new footwear line, effectively harming Tapestry and violating the conflict of interest provision in his employment contract.
“Gibb devoted significant time to furthering the business interests of Tidal and/or Homegrown that should have been devoted to Tapestry’s business,” Tapestry said in its complaint, filed Monday with New York State’s Supreme Court.
Gibb’s lawyer, David Gottlieb, told WWD that his client was terminated on Monday.
Gottlieb said of Gibb’s firing and Tapestry’s suit: “It’s pretty transparent this is nothing other than an act of retaliation against our client for bringing claims of harassment and discrimination two weeks ago. After two years with the company, he’s been nothing but an ideal employee and received nothing but positive feedback and accolades and was always completely transparent in his interest in Tidal.”
Tapestry — which owns Coach and Kate spade as well as Stuart Weitzman — said late last month that harassment complaints from Gibb led to an investigation of Morelli’s conduct and his resignation.
At the time of Morelli’s departure, Tapestry chief executive officer Victor Luis stated: “Tapestry is committed to an environment where every individual feels respected and at times [Morelli’s] behavior fell short of these standards.”
The company has remained mum on Gibb’s earlier lawsuit, which accused Morelli of making lewd and propositioning comments at work and Tapesty of doing nothing in response to his complaints. On Monday, a spokesperson referred to the lawsuit as “ongoing litigation on a separate matter.”
Tapestry noted that its discovery of Gibb’s alleged breach came only after he sued Morelli and Tapestry over his harassment claims, leaving the argument of workplace retaliation open for Gibb’s legal counsel.
Increased scrutiny of an employee is a viable definition of retaliation in some cases, according to Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission guidelines.
Gottlieb added: “We will be moving to dismiss this case as being meritless. How they will defend themselves against a claim of retaliation? I don’t know, but they were clearly trying to put our client in a position where he felt vulnerable.”
This is the latest shakeup at the Weitzman brand since the departure of its namesake founder. An in-house team has taken over design duties in the wake of Morelli’s departure.
In late April, Wendy Kahn was pushed out as ceo after less than two years with the label. Her post was filled by Salvatore Ferragamo ceo Eraldo Poletto.
In January 2015, Coach Inc., now known as Tapestry, acquired the Stuart Weitzman brand from Sycamore Partners for $574 million. At the time, Weitzman himself pledged to gradually phase out his involvement in the label over the course of two years, according to a source.