As soon as project manager Jennifer Lanser got back to Sisley Cosmetics from maternity leave in September 2009, things changed, she claims in court documents alleging discrimination examined by BuzzFeed Shift. This is the third discrimination lawsuit in three years filed by employees against Sisley, a French beauty company that touts its use of plant extracts in its makeup and skin care products and is sold at department stores like Bloomingdale's and Neiman Marcus.
In 2010, Lanser's boss allegedly started prying into her future family plans, implying that it wouldn't be good for her job if she got pregnant again. When she said she wanted to have another child at some point, she says he got upset and told her he was thinking of getting rid of the main project she ran, making her job redundant. She also says he unreasonably increased her workload but that a human resources representative, Mary Ann Krzos, told her to "just deal with" it. In May 2010, six months after coming back from maternity leave, she was fired.
Two suits (including Lanser's) are ongoing; one has been settled. All have in common the claim that when corporate officials at Sisley were notified of discrimination, they did nothing to help.
Last year, Sere Conde, who worked in sales for Sisley at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, sued for racial discrimination. She is black, and says in her suit that one of her bosses repeatedly made racist comments to her, at one point saying there were too many black people working at Sisley and that the cosmetics firm “wanted more blonde girls to represent the company.” She says another boss routinely sold products to Arab customers at inflated prices, sometimes even selling them samples that were supposed to be free.
When she spoke up about this, she says her employment was suspended, and Mary Ann Krzos, the same human resources rep who dealt with Lanser, told her that her only option was to transfer to another store where she would make less money. Her suit is ongoing.
And in 2009, former salesperson Lois Scafuri sued Sisley for disability discrimination. She says her boss at a Sisley counter in Short Hills, New Jersey, barred her from sitting down on the job even though she'd recently had spinal surgery, and that a supervisor from Sisley headquarters upheld his decision. Her lawyer, Paul Castronovo, says her suit was "resolved voluntarily on a confidential basis."
Lanser's case continues; both parties are in the process of gathering evidence. Her attorney, Mark Sherman, wasn't aware of the other lawsuits against Sisley, but said, "This is the time in the litigation when the facts begin unfolding, and any other allegations if they exist will be investigated."
Sisley's attorneys have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Update: An attorney for Sisley says the company "vigorously denies" Lanser's allegations but cannot comment further.