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Former employee sues Gucci for harassment & wrongful termination

The fashion Giant Gucci America Inc. has been sued by a former employee who says she suffered racial harassment and sexual harassment from a supervisor. She claims her supervisor also exhibited these attitudes toward famous clients that he did not know, including pop singer Rihanna.

She further alleges that she was wrongfully terminated for taking a leave of absence to deal with the emotional distress of the harassment. Her lawsuit seeks $5 million in damages and compensation.

The woman - who is of West Indian descent - worked as a tax attorney for Gucci for more than two years. During that time, her supervisor created a hostile work environment. She claims that he often referred to her as a prostitute, and called her names like "cheap day labor," "a loose woman," even a "f-ing bitch."

The woman claims that her supervisor also displayed blatant racism when she was working on a contract for pop singer Rihanna. The man allegedly told her to "tax the hell out of her" when he found out that Rihanna was from a Carribbean Island. He also wanted the woman to find a way to have Gucci withhold 30 percent of the singer's fee.

When the woman reported this behavior to Gucci's human resource department, she says the company failed to prevent the harassment. Eventually, the harassment became so bad that the woman was hospitalized with severe depression and anxiety.

According to her lawsuit, Gucci fired her when she asked to take time off for medical recovery.

This case is a good example of how a company's failure to respond to racial and sexual harassment claims makes them just as guilty as the harasser. Failing to act sends a strong message that the behavior is considered acceptable.

In this case, Gucci's alleged culpability goes one step further. Not only did they fail to correct the problem, they wrongfully terminated the victim of harassment.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "Rihanna cited in harassment suit against Gucci," Leigh Jones, 07 June 2011

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