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Robert Duffy Sued By Former Marc Jacobs Executive for Creating a "Hostile Work Environment"

Robert Duffy Sued By Former Marc Jacobs Executive for Creating a "Hostile Work Environment"

>> A former Marc Jacobs executive filed a sex discrimination lawsuit earlier this week against Robert Duffy, Marc Jacobs International, and LVMH. Jacobs himself was not named in the suit.

The plaintiff, Patrice Lataillade, who was CFO and COO of Marc Jacobs International until his dismissal last September, alleges that Duffy “uses company funds for personal expenses and does not censor what he does or says.” The suit also gives examples of "Duffy's conduct which created a hostile work environment," including "his displaying [of] gay pornography in the office and requiring employees to look at it; his production and dissemination of a book which included photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude; [and] his requirement that an MJI store employee perform a pole dance for him."

Lataillade, who had worked at LVMH since May 1996 (and joined MJI in 2002), said in court papers that he complained of Duffy's behavior to MJI executives and the LVMH general counsel, but nothing was done. Other employees had also complained, the suit says, but a woman was told she needed a "thicker skin" and a man was instructed to "go home early and have a drink." Lataillade was fired "within less than a week" after his lawyers sent an email to the CEO of MJI and the LVMH general counsel regarding the "legal situation," and he alleges that he was “fired in retaliation for objecting to a discriminatory environment offensive to him.”

A Jacobs spokeswoman called the claims "false": "Patrice Lataillade was terminated as CFO and COO of [Marc Jacobs International] for serious matters unrelated to the allegations made in the complaint." And an LVMH spokeswoman said similarly: “The allegations contained in the complaint are false. Patrice Lataillade was terminated as chief financial officer and chief operating officer 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.”

At the time of his discharge, Lataillade's compensation package was $1 million a year; he is seeking lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, lawyer's fees, and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.

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