A $3 million lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court this week describes the Lululemon store on the Third Street Promenade as “the perfect environment for a sexual predator to operate,” arguing the conditions contributed a supervisor raping an employee at his home in Hermosa Beach.
In the civil complaint, former employee Shayla Famouri alleges she felt pressured to respond to texts from her supervisor, Phillip Silva, and see him outside of work because of Lululemon’s workout culture. The athletic wear brand encourages employees to wear Lululemon clothing and attend workout classes as brand ambassadors. During an annual employee competition called “Sweat Week” Silva began texting Famouri to attend workout classes with him.
“Silva attempted to meet with Famouri so frequently, under the guise of working out, that every time Famouri could not oblige, she felt that it was reflecting negatively on her work performance,” reads the complaint. Famouri eventually caved and during breakfast after the class, the USC student says Silva steered the conversation toward the topic of sex. She did not report the conversation to a manager because sex was an often talked about among employees at the store.
“Gossip about dating and hook ups were rampant amongst employees at Lululemon,” the suit says. “Parties and outings were regularly held during which employees drank to excess and hooked up with one another.”
Famouri hoped her time as a sales representative in the Santa Monica store would help her get a job at the corporate headquarters once she graduated from business school. In the store, Famouri says managers were indifferent to corporate policies concerning sexual harassment. At one point, she says employees and managers laughed through sexual harassment training and made a game of mocking the video and slapping each other’s butts.
“Her managers and supervisors constantly admonished her for wearing clothes that were not tight or revealing enough, in their opinions,” the suit says.
After her supervisor tried multiple times to initiate a relationship with Famouri, she says she decided to let Silva down gently. A conversation over sushi went south, with Silva allegedly telling Famouri she was fat and stupid. Shen Famouri drove him home, he asked her to come inside so he could apologize for his behavior.
Once she went inside, Famouri says her supervisor pinned her down on his bed and raped her.
A spokesperson for Lululemon sent the Daily Press the following statement:
“In 2016, Shayla Famouri raised serious allegations regarding the behavior of another employee. Upon learning of these allegations, the company initiated a comprehensive and in-depth investigation. The accused employee was immediately suspended; and then resigned. Nevertheless, the company saw the investigation through to completion, ultimately finding that the accused employee did engage in behavior that was not in line with our standards of conduct.”
“At lululemon, harassment and discrimination have no place in our community. Our culture is founded on us all positively contributing to an environment rooted in our values, which includes a commitment to working with integrity and a collective dedication to creating a respectful workplace. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that employees come to work each day in safe environments where they are empowered to speak up.”
About six weeks after the alleged rape, Famouri confided in a coworker who urged her to report it to the store manager. She did and Lululemon launched an investigation into the incident. A source within the company says during the investigation they became aware of other claims against Silva, but were not aware of his alleged misbehavior prior to Famouri’s complaint.
A few days later, Famouri reported the alleged rape to the Hermosa Police Department. After a brief investigation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office declined to press charges.
While the case was under investigation, Famouri requested a leave of absence from Lululemon. Instead, Famouri alleges the Human Resources manager at Lululemon told her she could resign and be eligible for rehire in the future. A source at the company denies Lululemon tried to push her out.
Equinox confirmed to Buzzfeed News that Silva now works as a personal trainer at the upscale gym. He could not be reached for comment and deleted his social media accounts in the wake of press coverage regarding the lawsuit.