Staff working for the fashion brand, Ted Baker, have called an online petition to end the alleged harassment by the chief executive, Ray Kelvin, 62.
They argue that inappropriate behaviours such as “forced hugging” have become the workplace culture and human resources office left the harassment unchallenged.
The petition has been signed by more than 2,500 people, and everyone can sign it freely even if they work for other companies. As a result of that, shares in Ted Baker hit three-year low, falling almost 15 per cent by noon today.
“The owner regularly makes sexual innuendos at staff,” the petition claimed.
In response to this, the company said that “Ray greets many people he meets with a hug” and the practice was “absolutely not insisted upon.”
Ted Baker also added that it will have a “thorough and urgent independent external investigation.”
People have reacted to this scandal with mixed views. Most users agreed that the allegation should be taken seriously.
One person made fun of the brand, writing: “I was hugged once. I have yet to recover from the trauma.”
Some consumers were calling for boycotting the brand. A comment on twitter described the harassment as “older men’s power.”
Many tweets used “#Metoo” to get broader attention, as they believed that the behaviours are assaults if the employees are not comfortable with it, and people need to break the silence about office harassment.
However, just like the negative comments that “#Metoo” movement has encountered, the Ted Baker issue was doubted as another way to steal the spotlight.
There were other viewpoints online to defend the CEO Mr. Kelvin. A fashion journalist Eric Musgrave commented this controversy as a result of “modern times”.
One user said: “The world needs more people like this who embrace fellow humans with such love.”
As the petition stated, the behaviours were not limited to “huggings”: “He stroke people’s necks, he took off his shirt on one occasion and talked about his sex life.”
Allegations of harassment were likely to be swept under the inefficient management of HR staffs. The lack of formal policies on this issue were concerned.
Political commentator, Jane Merrick, expressed “sympathy and solidarity with Ted Baker staff” and this kind of office culture is “not acceptable”.
According to the Sunday Times Rich List, Mr. Kelvin is worth £522m. Analysts said investors would be concerned if Mr. Kelvin were forced to quit as he represented the company’s image.