Society’s model scout said he was coerced after witnessing bad behavior

A former head of menswear at a prestigious modeling agency claims he was kicked out of the company to cover up the president’s alleged misconduct.

In a lawsuit filed in the New York state supreme court, John Hendrich – a former executive vice president at The Society Model Management – alleges that he witnessed President Chris Gay “inappropriately[ly] touch” a junior employee, Olga Tavares. When Tavares later issued a legal threat against The Society, Hendrich claimed, the company fired him for not reporting the case. According to the lawsuit, Gay faced no consequences. The association, through attorneys general, told The Daily Beast that an independent investigation into Tavares’ claims found no evidence of Gay harassment or misconduct.

Hendrich and Tavares both work for the menswear division at The Society, a subsidiary of the larger Elite World Group – a talent and modeling agency with 11 offices around the world and over 5,000 models and other characters. (Large names represented by EWG include Helena Christensen and Christina Aguilera.) According to the lawsuit, Hendrich joined The Society in 2019 to build up the mens division, and Tavares joined soon after to help scout for talent. . Gay, as president of The Society and co-CEO of Elite, worked closely with both of them, according to the lawsuit.

Hendrich says he 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 visa issues and “assumed it was something other than what happened.” The lawsuit claims Gay then raised her voice at Tavares and “unwarranted and aggressive scolding her”, to the point where she was visibly shaken and began to cry.

The second incident occurred in August 2019. According to the lawsuit. Hendrich, Tavares, and another employee of the men’s division were having a meeting in the New York office when Gay walked in and began questioning Hendrich about spying options in Los Angeles. Then he directed his question towards Tavares. Following the suit, he placed his hands on the back of Tavares’ chair and rocked it back and forth, then patted her shoulder three times — hard enough for Tavares to look surprised and say “ouch.”

As the Association pointed out in its own legal filing, Hendrich’s version of the facts and lawsuits differs slightly here. According to the suit, Tavares had clearly become upset as a result of the encounter, and Hendrich encouraged her to report it. However, in an affidavit filed that same month, Hendrich said that Tavares “did not cry, seek medical attention, or otherwise lead me to believe she was injured”, adding that he He didn’t think the interaction was “remarkable in any way.” So, he said, he didn’t discuss it with Tavares or Gay.

Regardless of what had happened in the immediate aftermath of the incident, both the lawsuit and Hendrich’s request for oath, Hendrich did not settle the matter again until the fall of that year, when Tavares sent him an email about it. According to the affidavit, Tavares emailed Hendrich about her recollection of the incident on September 3, to which he replied: “Yes, I admit that it all happened and I was there to witness it. .”

Tavares then made legal threats against The Society, citing this and “other allegations,” according to Hendrich’s lawsuit. (Tavares declined to comment to The Daily Beast.) As part of an investigation into Tavares’ complaints, the company questioned Hendrich. According to records by both Hendrich and The Society, the vice president confirmed to investigators that he witnessed the incident and received an email from Tavares about it, but had not reported it to the company. He was fired soon after.

According to The Society, Hendrich was fired for failing to notify the company of Tavares’ potential claims against them. In a letter dated February 10, 2021, included as an exhibit in dental fillings, the company’s general counsel claimed Hendrich’s failure to notify them of Tavares’ “damaging conduct” is “a breach of your duties and obligations under the Employment Agreement, a negligent act or misconduct in the performance of your duties, and a breach of your fiduciary duty to The Society. ”

“This, coupled with a poor review pattern, has led the company to face a flurry of complaints,” the letter read.

Hendrich’s lawsuit, however, claims he is being retaliated against for claiming he witnessed Gay’s conduct; that he was being “scapegoated” by the company as part of a “false attempt to protect Gay from liability”. It also claimed that Gay fired Hendrich over a Zoom call shortly after the investigation into Tavares’ claims ended and that the president “despised” him, telling him multiple times that he “not a leader”.

“The Association’s position that Plaintiff was terminated for failure to report Ms. Tavares’ complaint is unacceptable, and is a clear reason for his termination based on fact. was that he witnessed an alleged harassment of Mr. Gay against Ms. Tavares, he spoke to Ms. Tavares about it, and he subsequently provided information regarding the case. said during the investigation,” the complaint states.

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

Elite World Group claims the alleged abuse occurred under different management and that the company now has a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual misconduct and “leave[s] there is no room for any form of abuse, harassment, discrimination and/or gender stereotypes. But earlier this year, supermodel Carre Otis and the nonprofit Model Alliance write an open letter to Elite World Group co-CEO, Julia Haart, alleging that she presented herself as an advocate for women while profiting from Elite’s glorified past. An Elite spokesperson responded by saying that the company is “shocked and saddened to see Model Alliance attack the only female leader in the industry.” Society’s model scout said he was coerced after witnessing bad behavior


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