Oh dear. Another high-profile fashion brand is dodging allegations of sexual harassment, and it’s not pretty. Multinational firm Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy is facing a lawsuit for apparently ignoring complaints of workplace sexual harassment. And ironically, the complaint is being lodged by the company’s very own in-house litigation counsel and VP of legal affairs, Andowah Newton.
Bringing forth the complaint of being harassed by a senior staff member from 2015 until last year, Newton says her concerns were dismissed. In fact, she says she was told by management the treatment was merely “a by-product of being an attractive woman who works at a company with a French culture, and thus, should simply be tolerated.” She was further told that attempts of the executive to kiss her were normal, and “what executives do in a French company.” Yikes, if that’s not the definition of enabling – we don’t know what is.
Amongst the claims detailed in the suit were instances of the executive supposedly “lunging” at her, that he would “leer,” as well as “thrusting his pelvis and genitals into her face.” It’s an ugly insight into sexual harassment, and what it actually entails on a day-to-day basis in the workplace.
LVMH, which houses such brands as Dior, Marc Jacobs, and Sephora, did launch its own investigation, internally as well as with a third-party, but says no evidence of misbehaviour was found. This was after Newton brought forth an official complaint last spring, calling the internal investigation a “sham.” There are also notable inconsistencies between both sides, with Newton identifying her harasser as a “senior level management” employee, but LVMH naming them a member of “facilities staff.” Hmm.
As for LVMH, they claim Newton’s suit had “no merit,” stating the company has in place “clear policies prohibiting harassment and retaliation in the workplace,” along with “procedures to address any concerns raised.”
As with all cases of this nature, whether or not the allegations prove to be true or untrue, it’s clear — especially with the momentum of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements — that there’s a cultural workplace problem in regards to sexual harassment and power dynamics.
Last year another big fashion brand, Guess, found themselves at the centre of a harassment scandal when model Kate Upton called out co-founder Paul Marciano for sexual and emotional harassment. He later resigned, after an internal investigation concluded the allegations against him were indeed true. Whether LVMH comes down hard on these claims remains to be seen – but we’ll surely be keeping a close eye on the outcome.