MANHATTAN (CN) – Marc Jacobs’ former chief operating officer says he was fired for complaining of a “sexually charged workplace,” in which the company president was “displaying gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it,” produced and distributed “a book which included photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude” and asked “that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him.”
Patrice Lataillade sued Marc Jacobs International, Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy and MJI President Robert Duffy, in New York County Court.
Lataillade, who had worked for Louis Vuitton since 1996, became Marc Jacobs’ chief financial officer in 2002 and was promoted to COO in 2006.
“There have been sexual harassment cases threatened or brought against defendants based on Duffy’s conduct,” Lataillade says. “Because Duffy (correctly) believed that he would not be punished for his conduct, it grew increasingly worse.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
Duffy co-founded MJI, a luxury brand of Louis Vuitton, in 1984, and is its president and vice chairman.
Lataillade claims: “Duffy has behaved as if he has no obligation to follow LVMH’s rules of conduct or the law. He uses company funds for personal expenses and does not censor what he does or says.”
He says Duffy was responsible for the “sexually charged workplace” at MJI.
“Examples of Duffy’s conduct which created a hostile work environment include his displaying gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it; his production and dissemination of a book which included photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude; his requirement that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him; his use of a nude photograph for a billboard advertisement; use of a photograph of a nude man on Twitter and his oft-repeated comments about or references to sex in the office,” the complaint states.
Lataillade says despite his numerous complaints about Duffy’s behavior, the company “refused even to attempt to stop him. While a sexual harassment policy was drafted in January 2010, it was not promulgated by the Human Resources department because of a concern that it would anger Duffy.”
He says other employees’ complaints also met resistance from Marc Jacobs officials. The company attorney told a young female employee “that she needed a ‘thicker skin’ to work at MJI and a male employee who complained was told to ‘go home early and have a drink’,” the complaint states.
Lataillade says he was fired from his $1 million per year job less than a week after instructing company lawyers to e-mail a complaint about the “hostile environment” created by Duffy to Mark Jacobs’ CEO.
He says company officials told him he was being fired for cause, but would not tell him what the cause was.
He adds: “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. Only after the public outcry about anti-Semitic and racist comments by its representatives has LVMH tried to distance itself from such remarks.”
Lataillade, a citizen of France, seeks lost wages and damages for discrimination and retaliation. He is represented by Anne Vladeck with Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard.