Do as I Say Not as I Do? Workplace Toxicity Shows Up in Surprising Places

Everlane, a primarily web-based fashion retailer dedicated to “radical transparency,” faces accusations of poor working conditions. Despite founder Michael Presyman’s best efforts to create an ethical fashion retailer (with an emphasis on workers’ rights), employees’ frustration has led them to consider unionizing, citing unpredictable scheduling and insufficient pay/benefits. Among the allegations: Everlane’s head of HR discouraged employees from unionizing, and a manager attempted to prevent employees from discussing salaries (which is illegal).

In another instance of lofty corporate goals that do not get implemented on the ground, U.S. Bank’s vision statement states: “Our employees are empowered to do the right thing.” A U.S. Bank employee did exactly that by giving $20 to a customer in need, for which she was terminated

Make no mistake—when done right, concepts like transparency can make a profound difference. For instance, PayScale’s recent report suggests that pay transparency can shrink the gender wage gap, or perhaps make it disappear entirely.

Business Takeaway: Everlane is just the latest example of workplace irony that we have seen in recent months and years—from Planned Parenthood’s pregnancy discrimination issues to Amnesty International’s toxic workplace problem. And although U.S. Bank’s CEO has since taken ownership of that issue, considerable damage has already been done.

While the workplace has changed and will continue to change, we continue to see businesses, even new-age and “progressive” companies, stepping into the same traps that have plagued others for years. This is all the more surprising when these companies have specifically tried to address such issues in their vision, mission, and values statements. If you have questions about setting, changing, or measuring your workplace culture, contact Mark at 414-446-8800 or