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A group of former Everlane employees are speaking out against the brand and its “toxic workplace culture.”
On Monday, a seven page document was shared to social media by an anonymous group claiming to be Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) and white allied former employees of the sustainable fashion brand.
A group under the alias The Ex-Wives Club claimed to have experienced multiple instances of racism against BlPOC employees, prejudice in employee advancement and compensation.
“Everlane broke us. Our spirit, our bodies, and our ideas were considered for their cache and cultural value,” the group wrote. “Our psyche was manipulated to fall in line with a greenwashed version of sustainability as we ourselves worked unsustainably just to be seen and acknowledged for our contributions while watching our white counterparts advance.”
The document listed 13 separate instances where employees were inadequately compensated for their roles at various levels within the company, witnessed anti-Black behaviour from employees and reprimanded for flagging issues related to pay disparity and the brand’s lack of diversity both in-office and editorially.
In one account, a Black former employee claimed the company’s CCO Alexandra Spunt touched their hair without permission. The same former employee said they were left uncredited and uncompensated for their work on a campaign.
“I decided to open up to the rest of my team about issues with my pay and the work environment, I got an email from my supervisor saying that she wanted to check in,” the unnamed person wrote. “The check in was a meek walk around the block notifying me that they would not be renewing my contract.”
A separate former employee recalled an incident where Spunt allegedly refused to hire Black models for the brand despite being presented with 32 potential casting cards. According to the former employee, Spunt said “maybe” to a biracial model and gave problematic answers as to why the proposed Black models weren’t right for the brand.
“When asked to elaborate, she said, ‘their looks are a little too severe for Everlane,’ ‘too edgy,’ and that the Everlane girl should look ‘intellectual,’” the person said.
Multiple accounts from members of The Ex-Wives Club centred their complaints around the lack of opportunity, credit, and adequate given to employees. The issues flagged, including several in which former employees claim they were fired for speaking-up, coincides with a similar claim from earlier this year.
In March, 42 part-time employees claimed they were fired for attempting to form a union, and were terminated four days after presenting CEO Michael Presyman with a letter announcing their plans. Presyman issued a statement citing the impact of COVID-19 as the impetus for the brand’s decision called firing as an attempt of union busting “unethical and illegal.”
Although The Ex-Wives Club aired their grievances with Everlane publicly, the group also comprised an action-plan instructing the brand on how to move forward.
Among their suggestions, the group asked that Presyman and Everlane executives make public apologies with the deadline of June 25. They also asked they create an internal zero-tolerance policy to protect employees from “manipulation, bias, exclusion, and intimidation.”
To further internal change, the document calls for the company to match their $1 million donation to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) across smaller groups with Black leadership, hire Black executives before the end of 2020 and invest in BIPOC retention.
In a statement to Yahoo Canada, Everlane acknowledged the document and issued an apology to their former employees via Instagram.
“This is the first we’ve heard of many of these allegations. We’ve taken them at face value and know how serious they are. We are committed to building a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace where all employees are valued and heard,” an Everlane rep said. “We have failed to ensure this was a reality for all and we apologize.”
We believe that through transparency comes accountability, and in order to enact change we need to better understand the problem. We are hiring outside counsel to lead an independent investigation immediately in order to take a deeper look into our entire organization,” the statement continued.
“We feel that an investigation that is independent of us is the best way to get to the source of these issues and truly create change. No matter the result, we know that as a brand and company we have work to do. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable. We know we must do better.”