Gucci | Allegations of toxic work culture at fashion powerhouse surface in lawsuit by former employee

Allegations of toxic work culture at fashion powerhouse surface in lawsuit by former employee

In a pending lawsuit filed in federal court in Chicago, Tracy Cohen, a former employee of Gucci, has accused the renowned fashion label of subjecting her to a toxic work environment marked by discrimination and unreasonable working conditions.

Cohen alleges that during her nearly 18-year career at Gucci, she endured discriminatory comments about her age and mental health, was forced to work around the clock and faced retaliation after raising concerns about her working conditions.

Cohen's lawsuit, brought forth by Attorney Tamara Holder, highlights a pattern of alleged misconduct at Gucci, including maintaining so-called ‘sweatshop conditions in China, forcing pregnant workers to have abortions, ignoring sexual harassment claims’, and even requiring women to wear straitjackets on the modeling runway against their will.

Holder asserts that Gucci must be held accountable for its treatment of employees, citing a need for international importance in addressing workplace issues faced by women.

According to Cohen's account, she joined Gucci's Chicago store as a sales associate in 2006 and rose to become the top salesperson by 2018, accounting for a significant portion of the location's monthly sales.

However, instead of recognizing her success, Gucci responded by increasing her sales quota to unrealistic levels and failing to fulfill promises of rewards and support.

Despite repeatedly expressing her exhaustion, anxiety and depression to superiors, Cohen alleges that she was insulted and further burdened with higher sales quotas.

After filing complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Illinois human rights department, Cohen claims she faced retaliation, including suspension and eventual termination without severance.

In response to these allegations, Gucci and its corporate owner, Kering, have not commented. However, Holder insists on pursuing the case, emphasizing its significance for working women internationally.

The HR bottom line

It’s unlikely that your organization has a toxic culture akin to the accusations levelled at Gucci in this case. However, it’s essential regardless to ensure that you create an open and wellbeing-centric environment for your people. You can do this by:

Promoting a culture of open communication: Encourage employees to voice their concerns without fear of retaliation. Establish channels for employees to report issues confidentially and ensure that complaints are taken seriously and addressed promptly.

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Providing support and resources: Recognize the importance of employee wellbeing by offering support services such as counseling, mental health resources, and flexible work arrangements. Ensure that managers are trained to identify signs of distress and provide appropriate support to employees in need.

Fostering inclusive and respectful work environments: Implement policies and training programs to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Address discrimination and harassment promptly and hold all employees, including senior leaders, accountable for their behavior. Encourage a culture of respect and mutual support among colleagues.

By prioritizing the wellbeing and dignity of employees, organizations can create a positive work environment where individuals feel valued, respected and empowered, instead of embattled and abused.

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