Tokyo court dismisses Prada sexual harassment suit


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Going against a pro-active judge who has decided a settlement is fair and extending the number of court sessions to force a clear-cut decision was a strategic mistake. The judge probably thought the evidence or lack of it suggested a middle road and gave a strong hint to both sides. I would guess her lawyer also urged her to settle, knowing the system, and she rolled the dice and lost.

The need to change labour laws to better protect workers is great, but a separate issue. Now I hope she spends time campaigning for that.

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After the ruling, Bovrisse told reporters that the judge in June had yelled at her and promised to rule against her, when she declined the court’s recommendation to settle the matter out of the court, the Japan Times said.

There's nothing wrong with this; the judge was probably doing her a favor. When a judge says, "Look, I have seen hundreds of cases and yours is a sure-fire loser. If you're looking for money then take my advice and settle," you should take that advice - not run to the media and complain.

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A few thoughts:

First, and most obvious, Japanese Courts strongly favor out of court settlements. When you go against a Japanese court's recommendation to settle the matter, or mediate, then you're really prejudicing your chances with the court. That is the way it works, regardless of case, or kind of case. Whether this is bad or good, it is the way it is.

As far as whether it is bad or good, its a little more complicated than that. Rather, their are advantages and disadvantages to the Japanese judicial system, and most the advantages and disadvantages are a product of actually the greater advantages and disadvantages of Japanese society in general. In the instant case, since institutional and social sexism in Japan is what it is, what happened here will strike many in the West as, well, unfair.

But, like I wrote above, that is the way it works. So the question remains, is litigating sex discrimination the best way to change or move social attitudes in Japan? In the end, that is for the Japanese to decide, not me, though I do have my thoughts.

Second, were the exact case to occur in the US, or rather in my state of California, it is unclear whether the result would be any different. The article is short on certain important facts. If Mrs. Bovrisse job required her to fit the Prada image -- thin, stylish, rich -- may not be liable for pressuring her. It would also depend on the terms of her contract agreement.

And whether her allegations of suffering name-calling would have passed muster is again, determined by the facts, which we do not have.

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@ JTDanManOct. 28, 2012 - 07:30AM JST

I agree with most of this, but one remark. You question: "So the question remains, is litigating sex discrimination the best way to change or move social attitudes in Japan?"

Is it really "sex discrimination" when an employer demands that employees fit the profile of the company, when the whole business-model is based on the one idea, that a label on a product is the most important object to be owned by the comsumer? If your share of the market are fools who believe this hype, then it is harmful to your business interests, if you startle people when they go to into your shop to buy "image" and are confronted by an employee that looks very much unlike that image.

Another question is of course how capable someone might be in the end, who is not even able to understand the settlement question in court... This shows a self righteousnes in an employee, that even outside Japan would ot be tolerated very long.

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Being told to lose weight has nothing to do with sexual harassment.

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Prada is an international company. Sexual discrimination laws shouldn't vary from country to country. Unfortunately this could be the case here.

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Companies should be able to hire and fire whomever they want for whatever reason. These girls are largely hired because of their looks, not because of their engineering ability or mathematical skills.

It's part of the business. Just like actors and actresses. I'm sure if a director was making a movie about a boxer, and the actor gained fifty pounds before filming started, he'd be fired right quick, and no judge would support his claim.

Governments have too much influence.

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paulinusa, I think all laws vary from country to country, why should sexual harassment ones be any different? If anything they are the ones I would expect to be most different in Japan compared to the west.

I just love this part

Rather, the judge said, the firm had the right to dismiss her as she may have damaged the brand’s image by telling the media that the company had called her ugly

How can anyone abused, bullied or whatever have any confidence in any kind of justice system in Japan with this kind of attitude? If you don't have cast-iron proof in your case then the tables will be turned and you'll be the one to be punished, not the real culprit.

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How is being told to lose weight Sexual Harassment? She is representing a top of the line Brand. Personally, I don't like Brands but I can tell you that if I walked into Prada or let's say a gym and it was somebody fat, aged and with ugly teeth, I would not be impressed by the shop. She should take a hit and hit the gym and stop splurging on Doritos.

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Can anyone clear please:

Usually if, we join a reputable firm the first thing we sign a contract and also get a copy (in some cases)of a company policy. If we agree we continue work, if, we don't we leave.

Question is does Rina Bovrisse was aware of such policy "Prada look" or not? If she was aware then why complain now? If she was not aware of "Prada look" then why did not company inform her?

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moneyyen, lol, I think that attitude is exactly one reason why sexual harassment laws are there

Ari94, contracts are irrelevant if they break the law.

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I really don't understand why they are hailing this case as sexual harassment when it is clearly sexual and age discrimination. In my opinion this case taints other true sexual harassment cases as it has nothing to do with it.

I do agree with a few other posters in that a company should have a say in who they hire if it's important for making he business work. Also, I think that one does not need to fit the classic 'beauty' look in order to fit in. I have seen people who are not even close to being a beauty look impressive and stylish by the way they present themselves.

Personally, I disagree with the company, but I also believe it's their right.

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It would have taken a very COURAGEOUS judge to rule for the defendant. .......................Prada has a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

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Don't forget also that in Japan what a judge thinks and what the right thing to do is are almost certainly completely different things. Just because a judge recommend you settle out of court wouldn't appease you much if you knew you had been forced out of a job, as shown by the judge's tantrum after this woman refused. I can't believe some of you are putting any trust whatsoever in the Japanese justice system!

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It would have taken a very COURAGEOUS judge to rule for the defendant. .......................Prada has a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

That's ridiculous. Why would a judge be scared of Prada? And are you seriously suggesting Prada paid her off?

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Japanese justice is to justice what J-Pop is to music. That judge ought to be disbarred.

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Spoiled brat - being told it would be appropriate for her to loose a bit of weight to fit her company's image caused her " emotional distress" worth nearly a million bucks? Give me a break. Should take it as a free health advice and hit the gym / health club instead - might actually be good for her....and she finds the ruling " unacceptable"...tough luck mentioned above , she was offered a settlement , declined it and then subsequently lost. You win some, you loose some...that's how it is.

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Readers, please note the difference between "lose" and "loose."

Ari94, contracts are irrelevant if they break the law.

I would argue that the law is irrelevant if there is a freely agreed contract between two private parties.

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Some of the comments on JT really astound me sometimes...

All I can say is this - as long as she is still able to fit in the clothing that Prada required her to wear, and looks good in said clothing, it doesn't matter how "fat" she is.

Last week I went to the wedding party of an acquaintance who works at another uber-famous fashion house and I had the unfortunate experience of sitting next to her colleagues, who were the most unfriendly, unpleasant people I've met in memory. They took my friends' seats without even asking and then scoffed at them when they took their seats back, talked amongst themselves with their noses stuck up in the air and ignored everyone around them. By the end of the night one of them got drunk enough to come up to me and say " I noticed SOMETHING sitting over there (in reference to me!) but I didn't realize who you were." If the people I sat next to are anything like the people Ms. Bovrisse worked with, I completely sympathize with her. Having said that, getting a judge (especially in Asia) to side with you on a case based mainly on issues regarding physical appearance seems like an impossible feat.

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So she threw away a position of managing over 40 stores because they told her get in shape? Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater....though she probably thought with a big court payout she'd never have to work again.

The men working at Prada and other fashion houses are also required to keep in shape so this is not sexual harassment at all.

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I would argue that the law is irrelevant if there is a freely agreed contract between two private parties.

Then you would, thankfully, argue wrong. At no point does any law become "irrelevant". I think we can all appreciate this as your so called "freely agreed contracts" might not always be so "freely" just because some names are scribbled down on a pice of paper.

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@Giainfo: Guess you've never seen Raging Bull. If you were told to lose weight, told, or risk consequences such as missed promotion, then it is discriminatory. A person can not be prevented from being who they are aesthetically if they chose to be how they present themselves in regards to size, shape, height, color of skin, eyes. Undoubtably the management who said these discriminatory remarks are Japanese men, who in general are in a very different era when it comes to equality. They need a short, sharp wake up call, Japanese needs to protect its citizens no matter their sex, age or weight: It's the 21st Century for christ's sake!

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Another case for the HR vampires in general to be hung drawn and quartered, in this day and age perhaps a recording of the offensive commands would have helped sway the courts finding. Push on with the case fair damsel, as Prada (made in who knows where) could do with loosing a few pounds !!

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Is it really "sex discrimination" when an employer demands that employees fit the profile of the company, when the whole business-model is based on the one idea, that a label on a product is the most important object to be owned by the comsumer? If your share of the market are fools who believe this hype, then it is harmful to your business interests, if you startle people when they go to into your shop to buy "image" and are confronted by an employee that looks very much unlike that image.

First, yes it is discrimination. Look at the picture in the article, there's nothing wrong with her except for the fact that she's no longer 21 or skinny as a rake.

Second, how many people would be up in arms if eikaiwa selected and made contract renewal decisions on teachers based on looks and age - not white enough, not blond enough, sorry - you've served us well for the past seven years and you're great at your job but now we feel you're too old and a bit chubby, so see ya.

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Maybe Rina Bovrisse should sue Prada for discrimination rather than sexual harassment she might get somewhere. In any court case you really need a good lawyer.

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Above is a link, seems pretty extreme to have to endure the crap she seems to have, bottom line is in Japan the man/woman on the street has pretty much NO CHANCE is calling a company on its bad behavior, even if in the end you "win" after time taken, costs you loose bigtime, if you have deep pockets best one can hope for is a meagre moral victory but its pretty much impossible here.

Good for her for fighting

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To the moderator , My comment relates to physical discrimination and not "sex discrimination".

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that's why i avoid high brand nasty clothing cause prada and those other places are full of fake, stuck up, mean %^&, high maintenance, disrespectful people that look down upon REAL NORMAL people lol KEEP ON FIGHTING GIRL!

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Wow this considered sexual harassment. Prada better send its big execs out and apologize for victimizing this woman. Dont forget the curfew implentation.

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There is actually a law on the books by which companies are penalized for overweight employees, so asking people to lose weight can't be against the law. If it is meant that being asked to lose weight is sexual harrassment, then this also completely trivializes the meaning of "sexual harrassment".

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Sexual harassment might be pushing it - though how many men at Prada have been told to lose weight? It certainly IS power harassment though. Good for her for fighting it. No shockers that many of the negative comments on here are from men.

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gaijinfo at Oct. 28, 2012 - 11:11AM JST Ari94, contracts are irrelevant if they break the law.

I would argue that the law is irrelevant if there is a freely agreed contract between two private parties.

I disagree. Contracts are suppose to be within the parameters of the law. Slavery/Abortion/discrimination was legal, not it's not. Laws change over time. Society adapts.

So it's down being told or ask to lose weight. Being asked is fair enough. It's a suggestion. Being told over and over again is bullying. Is it worth all that money? I don't know.

As for the settlement, maybe there are other women waiting to sue. If she was successful, others maybe. In America, they usually have a class suit.

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For better or worse, weight loss is part of Japanese law. Companies have to give weight loss education to employees who are found to be overweight at the company's annual physical exam. Companies are fined money of they have of overweight employees. So asking workers to lose weight is not power harrassment, it is the law.

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A case of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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She should have just gone to the gym. No one gonna give her 3/4 of a million dollars because she was told she needed to lose some weight. Thats not sexual harassment that's just advice.

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Prada officials had admitted having asked her to lose weight Presiding judge Ayako Morioka, however, dismissed the case saying that Bovrisse had failed to establish her claim that the fashion house had called her “ugly.”

They called her fat but not ugly. Totally different.

The men working at Prada and other fashion houses are also required to keep in shape

Yes ? Look at that :

That's the guy that told her to lose weight, dye her hair and get the Prada look. He looks like he's in "shape" ? He looks "like the Prada image" ?

and told her that as a senior retail manager overseeing 40 stores in Japan and two in Guam and Saipan, keeping in shape was essential, the Japan Times reported.

But a male CEO for the same shops can sport a double chin, flat hair, stubble, grandpa spectacles... And I think everybody has seen photos of Miuccia Prada.

I really don't understand why they are hailing this case as sexual harassment when it is clearly sexual and age discrimination.

Because there is no decent law in Japan about the second case. In some interviews and lectures, she has listed the many illegal things Prada was doing and I believe her because I have heard the same countless times, by women I know that worked for foreign big brands in Japan. Japanese companies are already sexist, but those foreign luxury businesses, they are here in the colonies totally liberated from all complexes. So she tried to sue for the other things but the judge said there was nothing illegal, point by point. When to boost the sales of their area, the middle level managers tell the staff to buy products that cost like half their salary a piece so the shop meets its objectives and they won't need to fire people, it's normal... That looks like cutting staff's pay in two, which would be illegal, but that's totally different. In this case, the judge said the staff Bovrisse brought as victims of this scam, they have all admitted they were never given orders to buy but given the advice to buy. So they were just happy to purchase Prada goods and they didn't know they were happy ? Another way to reduce costs, they get rid of staff that have gained weight... not bodyweight, weight on the payroll, due to seniority. They find pretexts to punish shop managers in big cities, so they transfer them as far and inconvenient as possible, doing basic jobs, same conditions as baito. And this is normal, for the judge, that you get transferred. Like "Yes, I was area manager for the 40 boutiques in Japan, and I'm glad to go to learn new skills as assistant salesperson in this quiet little town. ". That's what Rina Bovrisse was expected to say and she wouldn't have been fired.

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"a Prada human resources manager had branded her "ugly"

That manager is an idiot.

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She is not all that attractive by Asian standards. Non-Asians who are attracted to Asians tend to have lower standards. With that double chin I'd say weight loss wouldn't be a bad idea.

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Companies tell people to lose weight once they are at a certain waist circumference. She is no where near the limit set for Japanese women so sorry, these laws some if you speak of don't hold up in this case. It IS harressment and sadly, a very large problem in Japan and more so for women.

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Wait why did she even categorize this as "sexual" harrassment anyways, wtf? I mean maybe if she tried filing it under regular harrassment she'd stand a chance, but how on earth are such comments perceived as "sexual" in nature, I haven't a clue.

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" Bovrisse was demanding Prada pay her 58 million yen ($728,000) for emotional distress. "

58 million yen for claimed "emotional distress"? Heck, can I sue her and ask for a couple of million for the emotional distress that reading about this stupid court case of her caused me?

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I wonder if this decision will set a precedence for other similar complaints. For example, if a teacher is fired because they have a tattoo, despite the recommendations to have it removed by a prefectural government. It would be more difficult to make a discrimination claim. Anyway, I doubt she was hired for her looks. If she's a capable manager, and able to speak English, Japanese and French fluently, those are valuable skills that are probably difficult to replace.

Also, $728,000 is not a large claim. If she was making a good 6-figure salary, that's a few years of lost wages plus legal fees, and maybe a little more to compensate for the "emotional distress".

I think there's a different use of language here with the term sexual harassment. In the US, it seems to have a specific meaning of unwanted sexual attention. But in Japan, I believe the term used to fit more with "ijime" or "power harassment" issues. Maybe "gender harassment" is a better term to use here.

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What has her looks to do with doing her job well, i.e. sales? Some of the most impressive staff I've come across are average looking, but as long as they offer above-average services with a great attitude, why should they be discriminated against?

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Based on facts given in the report, I don't see how this falls into the category of sexual harassment ? If Prada only "warns" female employees then it's gender discrimination, not sexual harassment. If inappropriate language cause emotional distress or hostile working environment for employees, then the judge's call for settlement might be right remedy ( for damage). But fill me in, if there's Japanese lawyer here.

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I don't think '‘you must lose weight,’" word is sexual harassment. Also I believe it's very important for Fashion House like Prada employee to keep their body weight and look good. Otherwise, no one will shop there if shop assistant look fatty and ugly. I think next time Prada should put weight issue in contract.

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If they put that in employment contract, I'm afraid Rina-san would have a concrete case in discrimination.

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I would think a company like Prada would have clauses in their contracts about that--I know they wouldn't hire a model if the model wasn't deemed 'beautiful' and in shape and whatever else they'd want. But maybe since she was just a normal employee they can't go there.

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He looks like he's in "shape" ?

He doesn't look overweight, and how does the fact he wears glasses have anything to do with this?

as a senior retail manager overseeing 40 stores in Japan and two in Guam and Saipan, keeping in shape was essential

She wants this position she has to fulfill the requirements. If she knew the requirements for years and now has gained weight and doesn't want to lose it, it's her problem. You don't become a manager of 40 stores overnight. Surely she understood the conditions placed on her employment.

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I suggest some of you read the link provided above by someone as the story runs much deeper than what is written here. A clear case of power harassment and sexual harassment - this article us the tip of the iceberg with regards to what her male bosses said and did. And it wasn't just her that had to deal with them.

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I don't understand this idea that people who work for a fashion company should all be as slim as models because it's the company 'image'. Wouldn't 'Our clothes make you look good even if you have a few surplus pounds and a few surplus years, as our sales staff demonstrate' be a better selling point than 'You have to be as thin as a rake and under 25 to look good in the stuff we sell'? Reading that there's a 'Prada image' doesn't inspire me to rush out and buy Prada - it's obviously not a brand that caters for people like me (ie not super-models).

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The Devil Wears PRADA

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Prada has no interest in making people look good who have surplus pounds and years. They have an image and a brand to maintain and that is what they are doing. That is why some designers/makers dont even have larger sizes available for purchase, they dont want overweight people buying and wearing their stuff, it diminshes their "brand". Even for guys, a lot of companies dont make pants with a waist over 34 inches.

Couple of comments:

She isnt asking for her job back. Looks like a money grab. She was offered a settlement but it wasnt enough money to soothe her hurt feelings?? I read somewhere that she says she was told to fire 15 other people who worked for her for being old/ugly/fat. Did she fire them? At least in her case she was given the option to lose weight and chose not to, but what about the others? . Why is there only one picture of her on the internet that shows below her neck? I want to see what the fuss is about as far as her weight.
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While being called fat and ugly does not sound like sexual discrimination, it is certainy offensive. She is not going to win this in the courts.

Sorry to say this Rina, but you've got to move on. Hell, I can sympathize with you. I am a male and have been on the receiving end of sexually inappropriate comments before (my boss was gay) and it feels extremely uncomfortable.

A word of advice, give Prada the big middle finger (because it sounds like that's what they deserve!) and move on!

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i think she is losing the media battle : they choose one of the least flattering pictures of her in articles...... she doesnt stand a chance.

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1 - according to Ms Bovrisse, women were fired for being aged, ugly, fat, bad body shape, bad teeth, disgusting and not cute. Assuming this is true, women were discriminated against for being older and not looking a certain way. How can some of you defend these disgusting employment practices? In the 21st century?

2 - as a woman who has bought Prada in the past, I feel degraded because Prada are assuming that I'm so shallow and brainless that I only want to be served by people who look like models.

I want to be served by people who are helpful, polite and knowledgeable about the products they sell. Obviously I expect them to have basic good hygiene etc... but I don't care if they're fat, old or not conventionally pretty. Needless to say I will never buy Prada again.

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I hear it from my Japanese female friends all the time. Ignorant males calling them nasty names. They can't stand up to their bosses so they take out on female co-workers.

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Thanks for the reply and sorry for the delay. You asked: "is it really "sex discrimination? - and raised the issue of the petitioner being held to a overall company standard that their (floor) managers fit the Prada image, which is thin, stylish and rich.

In Japan, probably not, since what many in the West consider as institutional and social sexism in Japan is the norm. And that is rather the point. That institutional and social sexism strikes many as unfair and unjust. It is also illegal in all Western countries, -- or rather, many forms of it are.

In California, where I live, if it were demonstrated that female employees were held to a different standard than their male colleagues regarding their weight and appearance, then that is considered discrimination, and would be punished. Specifically, such differential treatment violates the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) Act. Federally, the US does not have an ERA, but a recent trend in Supreme Court jurisprudence has placed females into a middle range of being a "protected" class, under the 14th Amendment. There is also the Civil RIghts Act, which directly applies to discrimination against women. There are other laws, such as the Lilly Leadbetter Act, which extend further protections to women against discriminatory behavior.

Here, again, if this case were tried in California, and if it were the case that Prada held Rina Bovrisse to a different standard than her male counterparts, and it could be shown that Prada held Rina Bovrisse to a different standard because she is a women, and finally it could be shown that Prada fired Rina Bovrisse because of that different standard, then Prada would lose.

Rina Bovrisse allegations of verbal abuse based upon her gender, if proven to have occurred, would primarily serve to support her claim that she was discriminated against because of her sex. The alleged infliction of emotional distress, though a separate tort (civil "crime"), in fact folds into the discrimination suit and allows the jury a way of punishing the transgressor for the real tort -- which is treating the women unfairly and unjustly.

On the whole,

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Assuming this [that Prada is discrimnating] is true

Well, that is rather the point. In theory, you can't. Or rather you should not. But we all know that once an allegation is made, we all wonder if it is true or not. And that is why so many companies in Japan are quick to make these matters go away, so as to protect their image.

So here is how it goes in the court of public opinion:

First, Prada has done their homework and has tried to damage Rina Bovrisse's image, and thus reduce her credibility.

Second, you could argue that Rina Bovrisse had little to no case to begin with, because if she had, Prada would have been willing to pay her off just to make her go away and to avoid a scandal. It is possible that she was banking on bluffing Prada into such a deal. At least, that is exactly the kind of meme I would be working my tail off to get out there if I worked for Prada, or were defending them on this case. In fact, that is exactly the kind of meme that I have seen in the weekly maganizes that have picked up this story.

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JTDanMan the problem in these situations is that the co-workers don't want to be involved for fear of losing their job and damaging their chances of getting another one. This is why we only have her testimony to go on. I do believe her version of events for many reasons too long to list here, one of them being that she knowingly committed career suicide to make a point. Did you know that Prada offered her a settlement in 2010 and she refused it?

Sadly most of the press reports have focused on the fat and ugly name calling, but it was just the tip of the iceberg in this case. Some people are under the impression she was a shop assistant who was fired for not fitting the Prada image, when in fact she was a senior retail manager in charge of 40 stores.

She reported that staff were expected to be available 24 hours a day every day of the year including days off, and answer phone calls from Prada staff in other regions in the middle of the night. Store staff who refused to buy Prada goods from their own salaries were threatened with job termination. The ones.who attempted to resolve work issues by going to HR or management were fired or demoted. Ms Bovrisse was fired illegally - she was told she was fired and should go home. She asked for written confirmation, which was refused. After a few days at home, she was then told she was fired in writing, because wait for it... she didn't turn up for work!

These are IMO the issues everyone should know about beyond "fat and ugly". Unfortunately Ms Bovrisse herself made a big mistake by using those accusations in the lawsuit and lost because she couldn't produce proof. We need more outspoken women like her for Japanese women to have equal rights in the workplace, sadly I doubt it will happen in my own lifetime.

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Let's Be REALISTIC 2 perspectives as an observer

It's very sad she lost her job. I don't like it when Fashion company doesn't have asian, black, and spanish models. I think it's very boring to see a caucasian model.

I can see woman & age discrimination in her lawsuit.

Japan has outdated labor laws and etc. Unions in Japan are nonexistent, Japanese courts doesn't support women's equal rights.

She's thinking like a foreigner and her lawyer is not that good. Probably the lawyer's hands are tied and not aggressive enough. If you do not have a good labor attorney and he's not familiar with case law. Your screwed!!!!! BIG TIME If this situation happened in America or Europe, she would have a better chance.

Other side

Prada has every right to fire somebody, if they don't fit the Prada image. ANOTHER GREAT EXCUSE Plus, if she was in some sort of management position and she's making alot of money. That's another good excuse to get rid of her.

Productivity !!!!!! Sales and fashion jobs are NOT forever !! it's usually for young people. To overcome the obstacle of age and beauty in the workplace. You have to bring something to the table - being competitive, work well as a team,overwhelming creativity & new fresh ideas. Group thinking if you think like an individual in a Foreign Japanese based company you will be ousted anyway.


Japanese people ESPECIALLY TOKYO, GINZA and every major rich area in Japan. Appearance is everything.

Example Japanese cake has a Standard uniform EVEN the cakes in JAPAN, has to look a certain CUTE & PRETTY way. American cake has pounds and pounds of sugar added and the frosting is tooooooooo sweet. Big and crappy

The business Model in Japan has CUTE & PRETTY STAMPED ALL OVER IT..... It's IN YOUR FACE everyday and every corner road.

I don't want to judge her appearance but this video says alot ........

It's a business you have to dress and look a certain way. BEING SLOPPY in Prada is not acceptable. If your working on the floor (showroom) for sales or working in the office.

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For those who would like to support Rina in her proactive efforts sexual discrimination you can sign the petition started by another Japanese woman. It is my understanding that Rina is aware of the petition so if anything by signing you can offer some moral support and show Prada you don't agree with their policies. This what I have done, and why I am sharing the link:プラダ-セクシャルハラスメント廃止

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