Society management

Scout Society model says he was kicked out after witnessing bad behavior

A former head of the men’s division of a reputable modeling agency claims he was kicked out of the company to cover up alleged misconduct by the president.

In a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court, John Hendrich, former executive vice president of The Society Model Management, claims to have witnessed “inappropriate” acts by Chairman Chris Gay.[ly] touch” a junior employee, Olga Tavares. When Tavares later issued a legal threat against the Company, Hendrich claims, the company fired him for failing to report the incident. According to the lawsuit, Gay suffered no repercussions. The Society, through a lawyer, told The Daily Beast that an independent investigation into Tavares’ allegations found no evidence of harassment or wrongdoing by Gay.

Both Hendrich and Tavares worked for the men’s division of The Society, a subset of the larger Elite World Group, a modeling and talent agency with 11 offices around the world and more than 5,000 models and other personalities. (The biggest names picked up by EWG include Helena Christensen and Christina Aguilera.) According to the suit, Hendrich joined The Society in 2019 to grow the men’s division, and Tavares joined soon after to help scout talent. Gay, as president of The Society and co-CEO of Elite, worked closely with both, according to the lawsuit.

Hendrich claims to have witnessed two incidents involving Tavares and Gay, the first of which occurred shortly after he and Tavares were hired. According to the lawsuit, Gay overheard a conversation between Tavares and another employee about a visa issue and “assumed it was something other than what it was.” The lawsuit claims that Gay then raised her voice against Tavares and “unjustifiably and aggressively berated her” to the point that she was visibly shaken and started crying.

The second incident happened in August 2019. According to the lawsuit. Hendrich, Tavares and another male division employee were having a meeting at the New York office when Gay walked in and began asking Hendrich about testing options in Los Angeles. Then he directed his questioning to Tavares. According to the suit, he placed his hands on the back of Tavares’ chair and rocked it back and forth, then tapped him three times on the shoulders – hard enough for Tavares to look surprised and groan. say “ouch”.

As The Society points out in its own legal documents, Hendrich’s and the trial’s version of events diverge slightly here. According to the suit, Tavares became visibly upset following the encounter and Hendrich encouraged her to report it. In an affidavit filed the same month, however, Hendrich states that Tavares “didn’t cry, see a doctor, or make me believe she was hurt,” and adds that he didn’t think not that the interaction was “remarkable in any way”. .” As a result, he says, he did not discuss it with Tavares or Gay.

Regardless of what happened immediately after the incident, the lawsuit and Hendrich’s affidavit claim that Hendrich did not address the issue again until this fall, when Tavares emailed him at this subject. According to the affidavit, Tavares emailed Hendrich about his recollection of the September 3 incident, and he replied, “Yes, I acknowledge that everything happened and I was there to enquire. be witness.”

Tavares then issued a legal threat to the Society, citing this and “other allegations,” according to Hendrich’s lawsuit. (Tavares declined to comment for The Daily Beast.) As part of its investigation into Tavares’ complaints, the company interviewed Hendrich. According to documents filed by Hendrich and The Society, the vice president confirmed to investigators that he witnessed the incident and received the email from Tavares about it, but did not report it to the society. He was fired shortly thereafter.

According to The Society, Hendrich was fired for failing to inform the company of Tavares’ potential claims against them. In a February 10, 2021 letter, included as an exhibit in the filings, the company’s general counsel claims that Hendrich’s failure to inform them of Tavares’ “prejudicial conduct” was “a breach of your obligations and duties under the employment contract, an act of gross negligence or misconduct in the performance of your duties, and a breach of your fiduciary duties to the Company.”

“This, coupled with a pattern of poor judgments, has exposed the company to a series of complaints,” the letter said.

“After an external investigation, John ‘Taylor’ Hendrich was terminated for deliberately suppressing a complaint and violating his duty to report a complaint of harassment by one of his direct reports, violating company protocol and delaying an investigation. immediate,” a spokesperson for The Society Management said. emailed The Daily Beast after this story was published.

“After company management became aware of the alleged incident, a thorough investigation was conducted by outside counsel, who found no evidence of harassment by Christopher Gay. The investigation includes a sworn affidavit from Mr. Hendrich, which directly contradicts the claims cited in his lawsuit. Company management stands by the decision to terminate Mr. Hendrich,” the spokesperson said.

Hendrich’s lawsuit, however, claims he is being retaliated against for confirming that he witnessed Gay’s behavior; that he is being “scapegoated” by the company in a “misguided attempt to shield Gay from liability”. He also claims that Gay fired Hendrich following a Zoom call shortly after the investigation into Tavares’ allegations was completed, and that the president ‘played him down’, repeatedly telling him he didn’t. was “not a leader”.

“The Company’s position that the plaintiff was terminated for failing to report Ms. Tavares’ complaint is implausible and constitutes an obvious pretext for his termination on the basis that he witnessed an incident of harassment alleged on the part of Mr. Gay towards Ms. Tavares, he spoke with Ms. Tavares about it, and then he provided information regarding the said incident during the investigation, ”says the lawsuit.

Elite World Group recently came under fire from a women’s rights group, urging it to confront Elite Model Management’s sordid history of alleged sex trafficking and abuse. Elite Models founder John Casablancas was accused of sexually exploiting girls as young as 14 and admitted to marrying a 16-year-old when she was 41. Former Elite executive Gerald Marie is currently under investigation by French authorities. for allegations of sexual harassment and rape. (Mary denied any wrongdoing.)

Elite World Group says the alleged abuse happened under a different management and the company now has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for sexual misconduct and ‘leave of absence’.[s] no room for any form of abuse, harassment, discrimination and/or gender bias. But earlier this year, model Carre Otis and nonprofit Model Alliance wrote an open letter to Elite World Group co-CEO Julia Haart accusing her of portraying herself as an advocate for women. while taking advantage of Elite’s checkered past. A spokesperson for Elite responded by saying the company was “shocked and saddened to see Model Alliance attacking the only female leader in this industry.”