Levi’s global brand president Jennifer Sey has quit the company after claiming bosses pressured her to “stop talking” about her opposition to Covid-19 policies in schools.
She spent over 20 years at the company, rising through the ranks from assistant marketing manager to become chief marketing officer and then brand president in 2020.
But as the Covid-19 pandemic gripped America, Sey became a strong advocate for schools to reopen without mask rules – a position that quickly attracted negative criticism from her colleagues.
Sey said she rejected a $1m severance package, which would have come with a nondisclosure agreement, so she could go on record about her treatment and subsequent exit.
“I wrote op-eds, appeared on local news shows, attended meetings with the mayor’s office, organized rallies and pleaded on social media to get the schools open. I was condemned for speaking out,“ she wrote in a Substack post.
“In the summer of 2020, I finally got the call. ‘You know when you speak, you speak on behalf of the company,’ our head of corporate communications told me, urging me to pipe down.”
She claims to have then been pressured by Levi’s legal and HR teams, as well as board members and then finally chief executive Chip Bergh.
“While they didn’t try to muzzle me outright, I was told repeatedly to ‘think about what I was saying,’” she wrote.
She said fellow staff also “castigated” her for her husband’s Covid views – ”As if I, as his wife, were responsible for the things he said on social media.”
She says that after being labeled a “racist, because San Francisco’s public school system was filled with Black and brown kids and, apparently, I didn’t care if they died,” she was asked by Levi’s head of diversity, equity and inclusion to go on an “apology tour”.
“I was told that the main complaint against me was that ‘I was not a friend of the Black community at Levi’s.’ I was told to say that ‘I am an imperfect ally.’ (I refused.)”
In the end, Bergh said her position at the company had become “untenable” and she departed.
You can read the full column on Substack here.
Levi’s has not commented on the post.