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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ex-Prada exec claims harassment

Staff writer

Former Prada Japan senior retail manager Rina Bovrisse, who is suing the company over emotional distress from alleged harassment, said Friday she took the action to support mistreated working women in Japan who don't feel they have the power to fight their employers.

News photo
Speaking out: Rina Bovrisse, former senior retail manager for Prada Japan, holds a news conference at the Tokyo District Court on Friday. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

"I filed the lawsuit against Prada Japan for creating a working environment cruel and unsafe for women," Bovrisse said at a news conference at the Tokyo District Court. "Prada Japan's personnel practice is abusive to women."

The civil trial, in which Bovrisse will argue that the Italian fashion company discriminated against her and other female workers for what the company president called poor appearance, will get under way May 14. She is demanding an apology, compensation and cancellation of her dismissal from the company.

"Women who worked at Prada Japan (and had been pressured to resign due to harassment) still go to the hospital for treatment of stress and fear of workplaces and people," Bovrisse said.

In Japan, few have stood up to address these issues, she said, "but I will do my best to prevent a recurrence of these events."

Takeo Kawamura, one of her two lawyers, said he has heard about harassment cases involving physical appearance, but Bovrisse's case is rare in the sense that the company linked looks with ability.

He was referring to the alleged comment by Prada Japan's human resources manager that "the company cannot let you be a senior retail manager because of your appearance."

According to Bovrisse, the human resources manager relayed a message from the company president last September that she needed to lose weight, change her hair style and that the president was "ashamed of her ugliness."

Bovrisse says she consulted Prada's Milan headquarters about harassment, including her conversation with the human resources manager. According to her, the Japanese unit then demoted and later fired her on the grounds that she reported the false harassment claim to the company's Milan headquarters and talked to the media about it.

Prior to the civil lawsuit, Bovrisse filed a request with the court for an industrial tribunal. The tribunal on March 12, citing a lack of evidence, rejected her demand for an apology and compensation for emotional distress.

Bovrisse's lawyer submitted a statement of opposition March 19 against the tribunal's decision, automatically triggering the civil lawsuit.

"Prada Japan did not conduct (the) unjust acts (Ms. Bovrisse) alleged, and her allegations are untrue," Prada Japan said in a statement last month.

Kawamura said Bovrisse's legal team didn't have enough time to submit all its evidence.

"We consider the civil lawsuit as the beginning of a real trial," he said.

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The Japan Times

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