A veteran Levi Strauss & Co. executive claims the corporation drove her out due to her outspokenness about school closures due to COVID-19, and that she handed up a $1 million severance payout to continue advocating for her beliefs.
Jennifer Sey, Levi’s brand president, stated in a post on Bari Weiss’ “Common Sense” Substack on Monday that Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Charles Bergh had recently informed her that it was “untenable” for her to continue working at the business where she had spent more than two decades and had turned down the severance pay because she did not want to “sign a nondisclosure agreement about why I’d been fired.”
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In the post, Sey, a mother of four, explained that she had long been a spokesperson for children and that Levi’s had always supported her when she expressed other political stance, but that all changed when Sey refused to stop speaking out against California closing school systems in the name of safety due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Free speech and children are not ‘right wing’ problems, and it should not be deemed beyond the pale to stand up for these things or even to be ‘right wing’ for that matter,” she added, adding, “and it definitely should not render one unemployed.”
Sey and her family relocated from San Francisco to Colorado, to reintroduce her children to in-class instruction, and she continued to speak out in the media against the closures. She claims that her appearance on Fox News’s “The Ingraham Angle” to share her opinions was the “last straw” for Levi’s.
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Sey claims she was accused of racism after that, despite being a longstanding proponent of racial fairness as well as the mother of two Black children. Levi’s Director of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion invited her on an “apology tour,” but she declined.
Bergh told Sey last autumn that she was pregnant, according to Sey “I was on track to become the future CEO of Levi’s,” he added, and “the only thing standing in my path was myself.” All I had to do was quit bringing up the school issue.””
“Stifling expression and disagreement are unacceptable,” Sey told FOX Business. “This isn’t Levi’s problem; it’s a bigger societal problem. We appear to have lost the capacity to discuss, argue, and debate while still respecting one another.”
When asked how she thinks Levi’s should have handled the incident, Sey said, “I feel it was able to maintain my speaking out without necessarily agreeing with all of my points of view. And, in doing so, cultivate an inclusive culture, in which everyone feels free to speak out and participate without holding back parts of themselves.”
In response to her post, Levi’s veteran says she has heard from people both inside and outside the company, including “those who have left and those in other companies who feel afraid to speak up about issues they care about”, who “believe there is just one correct response and that anything contrary to current dogma — on COVID or other topics – would be considered an HR violation”
Sey said that she is not planning legal action against Levi’s at this time.
The business stated in reply to FOX Business’s request for comment on Sey’s accusations “Levi Strauss & Co. declared management changes today that will affect our executive leadership team. Seth Ellison, EVP & Chief Commercial Officer, will serve as temporary Levi’s brand president in addition to his commercial responsibilities, succeeding Jen Sey, who resigned from the business.”
“LS&Co. has launched a hunt for a new Levi’s brand president, an opportunity to manage one of the world’s best known and most regarded consumer brands,” the statement said.
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