LONDON — Current and former staff of the British style chain Ted Baker are accusing the corporate’s founder and chief govt of inappropriate conduct, citing a “forced hugging” coverage and a office tradition that “leaves harassment unchallenged.”
According to a petition began by Ted Baker staff and printed by the worker advocacy group Organise Platform, Ray Kelvin, who began the model with a single Glasgow shirt store in 1988, usually “tries to massage people around the office, insists on long hugs with staff members, touches them inappropriately and openly asks his staff for sex.”
The petition, citing a number of episodes of harassment, additionally says Ted Baker’s human assets division ignored complaints about Mr. Kelvin’s conduct.
“Harassment at Ted Baker is well documented but willfully ignored by those in charge,” write the authors of the petition, which requires the corporate to undertake new procedures that enable employees to report harassment to an “independent, external body.”
It shouldn’t be clear what number of of the greater than 2,500 individuals who have signed the petition are Ted Baker staff as a result of anyone can add their names to it. Shares within the firm, which is listed on the FTSE 250, have been down 14 p.c, a five-year low in noon buying and selling in London on Monday after the existence of the petition turned publicized.
The firm stated in an announcement that it was taking the allegations cited within the petition “very seriously,” and “thorough independent investigation” could be carried out.
“While the claims made are entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our C.E.O., we take them very seriously,” the assertion stated.
It added: “Ray greets many people he meets with a hug — be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague. Hugs have become part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon.”
Mr. Kelvin named his enterprise after a fictitious alter ego and over three a long time constructed it into one of Britain’s best-known style manufacturers. In the method, he turned one of Britain’s most profitable, and most eccentric, retail tycoons, price 522 million kilos ($665 million), based on this 12 months’s Sunday Times Rich List.
His love of hugging has been well-known for a while; he has talked publicly, and usually, about fostering “a hug culture” in his workplaces, and of enjoying matchmaker amongst his colleagues. He has additionally been recognized to make people who find themselves late to conferences do push-ups. And he tries to by no means present his face in public.
“I am an ugly bugger,” he instructed The Daily Telegraph in a 2013 interview, “I don’t want people to see my face. I am not into all that.”
The petition, which drew significant interest in the British news media over the weekend, is not the only problem to confront Mr. Kelvin in recent months.
In October, Ted Baker rattled investors already spooked by volatility among British retailers when it reported a drop in profit for the six months that ended Aug. 31. The company warned at the time that the second half of the year would “remain challenging.”
Mr. Kelvin is just the latest high-profile fashion industry leader to face public accusations of inappropriate behavior amid a widespread revaluation of workplace culture prompted by the #MeToo movement.
In October, it emerged that Philip Green, the British billionaire who is the chairman of Arcadia Group, the retail company whose brands include Topshop, Topman and Miss Selfridge, had used nondisclosure agreements to silence five former employees who had accused him of sexual harassment and racist abuse.
In March, Paul Marciano, a founder of Guess, said he was temporarily relinquishing his day-to-day role at the company after the model Kate Upton accused him of groping, harassment, intimidation and firing her from jobs.