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Fashion giant countersues ex-employee over discrimination claims

A woman who was once a Chanel employee in New York is fighting an international anti-discrimination battle against fashion giant Prada. The case is a prime example of the type of legal action that may be necessary to protect against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

After graduating from design school and leaving Chanel, the woman took a job with Prada in Japan. She was reportedly in charge of managing hundreds of workers, and after only two weeks with the company, she said she noticed a culture of discrimination.

The woman filed a lawsuit against Prada, claiming that supervisors demoted at least 15 women because they were deemed "ugly" and not right for the "Prada image." The woman claims that she was also called "ugly" and demoted, and that she was eventually fired because the Prada CEO in Japan thought she had a "negative energy."

Two years ago, the woman sued Prada in a Japanese court, claiming the company harassed and discriminated against employees. The court favored Prada, however, saying that a luxury fashion company has a right to treat its employees in the way the woman had been treated.

Now Prada has filed its own lawsuit, seeking $800,000 in damages from the former employee. In response, the woman contacted the United Nations, which asked Japan to pass legislation that would make workplace harassment illegal, regardless of the type of business.

In New York, there are already federal and state laws meant to protect employees from workplace discrimination and harassment. To achieve justice by stopping a bad situation, workers need to be aware of their rights.

As for the employee-Prada dispute, we'll have to wait and see how the international community responds.

Source: CBS Los Angeles, "Ex-Prada Employee Who Accused Fashion House of Discrimination Fights Nearly $800K Countersuit," Aug. 6, 2013

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