The recently fired chief operating officer of fashion label Marc Jacobs International has sued his boss for, among other things, making employees look at gay porn and perform pole dances. If true, these allegations could rock the staid, buttoned-down world of fashion.
Patrice Lataillade has worked for LVHM, Marc Jacobs' parent company, since 1996, and he was Marc Jacobs International's chief financial officer from 2002—and CFO from 2006—to 2010, when he was fired. In a complaint he filed yesterday in New York Supreme Court, Lataillade claims he was unlawfully terminated for complaining about the hostile work environment created by Marc Jacobs' president Robert Duffy (pictured at left above).
"Examples of Duffy's conduct which created a hostile work environment include," the complaint says, "his displaying gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it; his production and dissemination of a book which included MJI staff in sexual positions or nude; [and] his requirement that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him." Duffy married his boyfriend Alex Cespedes last year in a Provincetown, R.I., ceremony that featured naked models.
In addition to the alleged sexual hijinks, Lataillade claims that Duffy "uses company funds for personal expenses," doesn't "censor what he does or says," and "behaves as if he has no obligation to follow LVMH's rules of conduct or law." When the company drafted a sexual harassment policy in 2010, the complaint says, it never distributed it out of "concern that it would anger Duffy."
Lataillade—who is straight and married—also raises some, um, less substantial complaints about Duffy that suggest that he is perhaps unfamiliar with mores in the fashion world. Duffy's "use of a photograph of a nude man on Twitter," for instance—and apparent reference to an episode where Duffy posted some naked party pics and then discontinued his Twitter account—doesn't really strike one as actionable. And if you consider "use [of] a nude photograph for a billboard advertisement" as contributing to a hostile work environment, then you really shouldn't be in the fashion business.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Marc Jacobs said: "The allegations contained in the complaint are false. Patrice Lataillade was terminated as CFO and COO of MJI for serious matters unrelated to the allegations contained in the complaint. MJI, LVMH Inc. and Robert Duffy will vigorously defend the case in court."
Here's the whole complaint: