A new lawsuit is threatening the accessibly feminist image on which Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso has essentially built her career.
Former Nasty Gal employee Aimee Concepcion has filed a suit against the company which alleges that she and three other female employees were illegally terminated after becoming pregnant.
According to the complaint, originally reported by Jezebel, Concepcion was recruited to head up Nasty Gal's new home goods category in late 2013. In April of 2014, she informed her supervisors she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, despite consistently positive performance reviews, she was told that she would be terminated along with a number of other employees, including Etalia Gold, who was eight months pregnant; Anne Coelen, who was a few days from returning from maternity leave; and Gilberto Murillo, who was set to go on paternity leave.
Publicly, Nasty Gal categorized these terminations as a round of layoffs, of which there were three rounds last year, resulting in a loss of 10 percent of the company's workforce. However, Concepcion was told that she could keep working up until she gave birth, but could not come back afterward — a sign that the company still needed someone, just not a pregnant someone, to do the work, the complaint alleges. More recently, Nasty Gal also allegedly terminated another employee, Rosa Lieberberg, "mere weeks after she announced to her co-workers that she was pregnant."
The suit describes Nasty Gal as "a horrible place to work for professional women who become pregnant and where discrimination runs rampant." Conspecion is seeking unspecified damages for sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, wrongful termination and breach of contract, among other things.
A rep for Nasty Gal provided the following statement: "The accusations made in the lawsuits are false, defamatory and taken completely out of context. The layoffs in question were part of a larger restructuring of departments we completed over nine months ago. The lawsuits are frivolous and without merit."
The state of California has a number of protections in place for pregnant and disabled workers that can be difficult for any company to navigate, particularly one as (relatively) small and young as Nasty Gal. If the nine-year-old retailer has a legal department, it is probably not as robust and prepared to deal with such lawsuits as one that has been around for decades.
While the company has been accused numerous times of knocking off the work of fashion designers, its only public legal battles thus far were suits it filed against companies for using the word "nasty," including an e-commerce site called New Nasty and a man who registered the trademark "Mr. Nasty Time Entertainment."
It's hard to think of a clothing company that, to the public at least, seems as pro-women as Nasty Gal. Amoruso's book #Girlboss has practically become synonymous with women forging ahead and succeeding, particularly in the workplace. It's disheartening to hear that the company's internal practices may not reflect the feminist message the company and its founder (who recently stepped down as CEO) convey.
This article was updated to include a statement from Nasty Gal.