Under fire

New lawsuit puts Nasty Gal in the hot seat

A former employee claims that the female-led clothing company is a nasty place to work for pregnant women in need of maternity leave

Sophia Amoruso, founder of Nasty Gal. Monica Almeida/The New York Times

The trendsetting clothing site Nasty Gal is in the spotlight this week over a scathing new lawsuit claiming that the company is “a horrible place to work for professional women who become pregnant.” An ex-employee alleges that the company fired her, along with three other pregnant women and a man who was about to take paternity leave, Jezebel reported. The company denies the allegations, calling them “defamatory and taken completely out of context.”

According to Aimee Concepcion, when she told her supervisors she was expecting a baby, they told her the company wasn’t required to allow her to take maternity leave with health insurance coverage, because at the time of her due-date, she would have only been employed at Nasty Gal for nine months. California’s pregnancy and parental leave laws specify that an employee must be employed for at least 12 months to qualify for maternity leave, but the suit alleges that the company failed to inform Concepcion of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an act that guarantees leave for employees covered by company health insurance, regardless of how long they’ve been employed.

Concepcion, 37, was allegedly laid off abruptly, though not for performance-related issues. According to the lawsuit, Concepcion had been recruited away from her job at Urban Outfitters to launch Nasty Girl’s new home section and received “high marks” on performance reviews during her time with the company. The suit alleges that the Nasty Gal included Concepcion in a wave of layoffs in the P.R. and tech departments because she was pregnant and needed to take leave.

The lawsuit states: “Despite Plaintiff’s excellent performance, Plaintiff’s employment with Nasty Gal was doomed from the minute she found out she was pregnant. Unfortunately for Plaintiff and a number of coworkers, Nasty Gal has shown itself to be a horrible place to work for professional women who become pregnant and where discrimination runs rampant … Instead of providing such mandated leave and reinstatement, Nasty Gal terminates pregnant employees so that it does not have to deal with what it perceives to be as the inconveniences of dealing with pregnant employees (including providing them with maternity leave).”

As for the other plaintiffs mentioned in the lawsuit, one pregnant employee reportedly learned she was being fired moments before attending a baby shower her coworkers were about to throw for her. Another employee was allegedly terminated due to “restructuring” just before taking maternity leave, and later found out that Nasty Gal had hired two male employees to take over her job duties. But even men don’t seem to be spared the threat of pregnancy-related job loss. A male employee, according to the lawsuit, was also terminated around the same time in August 2014, just a couple months before he was scheduled to take paternity leave.

In a statement provided to Women in the World, a Nasty Gal spokesperson said, “The accusations made in the lawsuits are false, defamatory and taken completely out of context. The layoffs in question were part of a larger restructuring of departments we completed over nine months ago. The lawsuits are frivolous and without merit.”

The claims made against executives at Nasty Gal don’t reflect the ethos of the Nasty Gal brand, which is based on the idea of the business savvy, “badass,” independent woman. But a series of less-than-heartening reviews on the anonymous site Glassdoor list a slew of “cons” including internal issues, top-heavy management and poor communication. The “pros” are disproportionately fewer, and include “snacks,” “dogs at work,” and “great parties.”

Nasty Gal was founded in 2008 by Sophia Amoruso. Amoruso, whose best-selling book #GirlBoss has become an entrepreneurial inspiration for young women looking to launch and grow their own businesses, stepped down as CEO of the company earlier this year, according to TechCrunch. At the time, she told Re/code that she would be staying with Nasty Gal and overseeing the operations of its creative and brand marketing teams on a daily basis as the company’s executive chairman. Sheree Waterson, who had been the company’s president, succeeded Amoruso as CEO.

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