Less than a week after a bombshell Racked story alleging a widespread culture of harassment and unequal pay at feminist-branded underwear startup Thinx, another set of allegations surfaced in a longread from The Cut.
The original Racked story centered around issues common to startups. Inadequate salary compensation, perceived bullying from an extremely hands-on founder, and problems centering around healthcare and human resources are all serious conflicts. These issues are disappointing, especially at a company branding itself as feminist. They're also fairly common in kind if not in degree across many startup work environments. This is an entirely anecdotal observation, and the Thinx work culture seems to be toxic for reasons that will soon become abundantly clear.
The Cut's story centers on a complaint brought by 26-year-old former PR head Chelsea Leibow. The complaint, filed with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights, offers a litany of allegations leveled at Thinx founder, ex-CEO, and current SHE-EO Miki Agrawal. Whereas the issues in the Racked story seemed indicative of a bad compensation environment, these allegations seem to indicate a lengthy sexual harassment of Leibow by Agrawal. The alleged harassment included talking about employee's breasts and bodies, telling humiliating stories in public forums, inappropriate touching at work, and FaceTiming into at least one meeting from the toilet.
We will repeat: These are just allegations. However horrifying they may sound, they have been neither proven nor disproven in a court of law. Agrawal offers a litany of denials and explanations, many or all of which may yet be borne out.
Leibow tells The Cut that the incidents began when Agrawal touched her breasts without consent.
"The incident, Leibow told me, developed into a pattern, with Agrawal regularly commenting on how Leibow’s breasts looked in various outfits, and touching them, both while the two were alone, and in front of others. Agrawal gave similar attention to other employees whose bodies Leibow described as, like her own, 'curvy.' (According to the filing, Agrawal 'molested at least one other female employee’s breasts.' Agrawal denies any breast-touching.) Leibow said she didn’t feel like her boss was actually coming on to her, but explained her discomfort this way: 'I felt that Miki objectified my body when she declared that she was ‘obsessed’ with it and made very detailed comments about my breasts, and it also seemed like a way for Miki to assert her dominance over female employees by simply doing whatever she wanted to do without asking, and showing she could get away with it.'"
That is straight up horrifying. As someone who's been touched in an office without their consent (on the shoulders, a much more minor area for obvious reasons), I can say the skin-crawlies stick with you throughout the workday and on your drive home. Doing so in front of employees as a power move is completely beyond the pale.
And the complaints go on. They include pervasive fat-shaming, firings seemingly without cause, and a lengthy discussion of Agrawal's "time in the Orgy Dome" at Burning Man. Read the rest here.
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