Staff allege culture of ‘forced hugging’
EMPLOYEES of fashion chain Ted Baker have signed a petition demanding an end to alleged "forced hugging" culture and inappropriate touching at the retailer's UK head office.
More than 2500 people have now signed the online petition calling for change inside the company, after at least 200 current and former staff members came forward with complaints, The Guardian reports.
The petition, established by employee campaigning platform Organise, calls on the firm's founder and CEO, Ray Kelvin to end his alleged "uncomfortable and unnecessary" behaviour.
Kelvin, 63, who founded the high-end British retailer in 1988, has been accused in the petition of asking "young female members of staff to sit on his knee, cuddle him, or let him massage their ears".
The petition also claims the company's HR department has ignored reports of harassment, which include the CEO's "sexual innuendos at staff," stroking people's necks, legs and hands, taking off his shirt and openly talking about his sex life.
Organise CEO Nat Whalley, told CNN: "It's inspiring to see so many Ted Baker staff come forward and call out inappropriate behaviour at the very top. It's the biggest group of reports at one employer we've ever seen on Organise."
Employees are appealing to Ted Baker's board of directors to "set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body".
"Put an end to the awkward 'hugging' policy. It's inappropriate and is part of a culture that allows harassment to go unchallenged," the petition reads.
"Please set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body - HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment. It's time to break the silence."
In a statement to the UK's Press Association news agency, the company responded by saying it is looking to "understand the details and nature of the claims," which are "entirely at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO, we take them very seriously and will ensure that a thorough independent investigation is carried out".
The statement continues: "Ray greets many people he meets with a hug, be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague.
"It is critically important to us that every member of our staff feels valued and respected at work."
In May, Tatler estimated Kelvin's net worth at more than $900 million. He came in at number 15 on the list of Britain's 25 richest people in the fashion industry.
Ted Baker's stock price was down more than 15 per cent on Monday.