Debating Robert Duffy’s Alleged Sexual Misconduct at Marc Jacobs

The fashion industry isn’t exactly the HR-friendliest of places, but it’s not often you see employees take action and file a lawsuit. Patrice Lataillade, formerly CFO and COO of Marc Jacobs Int’l, until he was let go in September, has done just that, formally alleging “sexual discrimination” and “retaliation” (termination) for objecting to a hostile work environment.

In court papers obtained by WWD, company president Robert Duffy is charged with “production and dissemination of a book that included photos of MJI staff in sexual positions or nude” and the “use of a nude photograph for a billboard advertisement.” According to the Daily News, he also forced employees to watch his personal porn collection and mandated workplace pole dances. In addition, Duffy is accused of using company funds for personal expenses and “not censoring what he says.” (If that last one’s a crime, better make room in the jail cell for us.)

The alleged transgressions recall Duffy’s previously reported sexual provocations, such as the Employee Bum Contest at a Marc Jacobs Christmas party in the San Francisco store, and Duffy’s gay wedding last year in Provincetown, in which guests were treated to (and apparently some turned off by) nude male strippers on tabletops. Just last week, in the ultimate tweet for a tat, an overzealous intern exited the company by taking over Marc Jacobs’ Twitter to declare Robert Duffy a tyrant, finishing with “walk in my MJ shoes!”

It would seem this is another PR blow for LVMH, part owner of Marc Jacobs Int’l and named in the lawsuit as a defendant (Marc Jacobs himself was not). After John Galliano’s recent dismissal at Dior, one feels a twinge of sympathy for Bernard Arnault.

We can’t say we’re surprised to find the behind-the-scenes operations to be oversexed (the Bang fragrance campaign practically requires a shower after viewing). But we’re hardly the PC police either, guilty of making plenty of crude jokes and comments. We’d like to think it’s humor. Besides, isn’t a certain sexual delinquency and deviance part of the Marc Jacobs charm? Tell us what you think. Is Marc Jacobs, the company, hopelessly mired in sexual perversion or needlessly embroiled in one person’s puritanical vendetta? Where does you draw the line between innocently tarting up and criminally tarnishing one’s image? Comment below.

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