Apr. 26th, 2013

Former Prada Employee Fights Against Discrimination in the Luxury Workplace

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Photo Courtesy of Prada
All in the name of fashion? One former Prada employee doesn’t think so. Rina Bovrisse, an ex-staffer of the luxury brand, has a long and bumpy history with Prada, where she started working just after graduating from Parsons School of Design in New York City.

Almost immediately, she says she noticed discriminatory behavior toward employees whose appearances did not meet the luxury brand’s standards. However, she stayed with the brand and documented her experience, and even with a 2009 promotion and a transfer to Japan, Bovrisse says the condition and treatment worsened. After a human resource manager threatened the security of her job due to her weight and hairstyle, the ex-employee alerted Prada’s global COO and Human Resources director, Sebastian Suhl of the incident, for which she was urged to resign.

But Prada didn’t stop there. According to Bovrisse, the brand went on to demote and transfer 15 female employees because they were “old, fat, ugly, disgusting, had bad teeth, bad bodies, or did not have the Prada look." Unsurprisingly, Bovrisse, along with two co-workers, filed a lawsuit in Japanese court against Prada in December 2010; but the judge’s ruling in October 2012 was anything but encouraging. Tokyo District Court Judge Reiko Morioka ruled in favor of Prada, citing that the alleged discrimination was “acceptable for a luxury fashion label.”

Now, Prada is countersuing Bovrisse for $780,000 for “damaging the Prada brand,” and the defendant is doing everything she can to get the label to drop the suit. Her efforts include trying to bring a new discrimination suit to the U.S. with the help of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. An upcoming hearing at the end of April will discuss her case.

What do you think about this news? Do luxury labels reserve the right to demote or fire employees, both behind-the-scenes and on the floor, who don’t fit the brand’s “look?” Or should they be held to the same standards as other global companies, whose strict discrimination laws strictly prohibit this kind of treatment to employees? Let us know in the comments box below.
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