Earlier this month, more than 2,500 employees and customers of the UK fashion retailer Ted Baker signed an online petition to stop the practice of “forced hugging.” The petition called on the company’s CEO to stop alleged “inappropriate behavior” and put an end to a corporate culture that “leaves harassment unchallenged.”
The signatories, more than 300 of which are current or former staff members, demanded a better way of reporting harassment at the firm. According to the CEO of Organize, the online platform that hosts the petition, this call to action from Ted Baker employees and customers is the largest of its kind.
While the petition’s authors acknowledge working at Ted Baker offers many benefits, they say those positive aspects are overshadowed by inappropriate comments and touching. Some of the behaviors they allege to go on at Ted Baker include: The CEO inviting a female staff member to sit on his knee and cuddle him; stroking employees’ legs under the table; and forcing hugs and kisses on staff members.
Reactions from Management
Upon reporting the behavior to Human Resources, one female employee says she was told, “that’s just what Ray’s like.” According to some reports, the CEO requests a hug from every employee.
For their part, Ted Baker management says they are in talks with Organize to learn more about the petition’s details. They vow to take any claims of harassment seriously, and conduct a thorough investigation.
Even so, the company does acknowledge that hugging is part of the Ted Baker culture. They released a statement to the UK Press Association reading, in part, “Ray greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer, or colleague.”
Defining Workplace Sexual Harassment
In the United States, it is unlawful to harass another employee or applicant because of that person’s sex. Harassers and victims can be of the same sex or different sexes, and the harasser is not always a superior; it can be a colleague or even a client or customer.
Also, harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature. It can be any offensive comments or behavior related to a person’s sex.
Sexual harassment includes:
- Requests for sexual favors
- Unwelcome sexual advances
- Verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature
A single off-color joke or suggestive comment does not usually constitute sexual harassment. When the behavior in question becomes more frequent and severe, and in turn creates a hostile work environment, or when it leads to an adverse employment decision like a demotion or termination, it may be sexual harassment.
Marlton Sexual Harassment Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Represent Employers and Employees in all Types of Employment Matters
The Marlton sexual harassment lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. have been on both sides of harassment claims, hostile workplace cases, and other employment matters. This experience gives us the insight and perspective allowing us to provide the best legal guidance for you.
Sexual harassment not only causes emotional pain and humiliation, it often results in economic damages after a victim is demoted or fired. On the other side, being wrongly accused of sexual harassment can be equally devastating. We fight for justice under the law to protect victims.
Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.