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A former Perry Ellis executive has filed a lawsuit against the company alleging that it employed racist and homophobic practices while casting its campaigns, according to The Guardian. The lawsuit filed by Joseph Cook, who the case notes is gay and was head of sales at the Perry Ellis-owned Penguin brand, paints a bleak picture of the brand's president and future CEO, Oscar Feldenkreis.
Cook's lawsuit claims Feldenkreis gave discriminatory instructions to his team. Feldenkreis allegedly demanded that there were "no blacks in my ads" or "anyone who looked too gay". Cook also says that the company president told him he could get out of jury duty by "telling them you hate n*****s and f**s." The lawsuit also says that Feldenkreis's daughter reinforced this discriminatory behavior to Cook. Cook alleges that she repeatedly told him, "My dad doesn't like having black guys in his ads, or anyone who looks too gay."
It's also claimed that Perry Ellis implemented a coding system that Feldenkreis would use to screen models.
On one occasion Cook replied to a discussion about one male model, who was referred to as "not 05", to ask: "I'm bad with the codes ... What is 05?" The reply he received was an image of nearly a dozen black Crayola crayons.
Perry Ellis has released a statement denying all these claims.
Perry Ellis is a company that promotes equal opportunity and a positive working environment. The company is proud of the fact that it is probably one of the most diverse companies in the apparel business following its multicultural roots, stemming from Puerto Rico and Cuba. Perry Ellis categorically denies any allegations to the contrary. The claims that have been asserted will be vigorously defended against.
Update: Perry Ellis has settled its lawsuit with former executive Joseph Cook, the New York Post reports. According to the Post the suit was settled "amicably" and Cook is resigning from the company next week, January 22nd.
"Perry Ellis is a diverse and inclusive company, and has always been so," Cook said in a statement. "My overall tenure at the company demonstrates that the comments I complained about are not reflective of the overall culture of Perry Ellis, the character of its leadership, or the Feldenkreis family."
Cook tells the Post his change of heart about the brand came after "a lot of dialogue and reflection," since October when the suit was filed.
The company said Cook is leaving on his own accord, but declined to say whether or not there was any financial payment to its former executive.