Former Levi’s president Jennifer Sey has announced that she was forced out of her post because of her views on COVID-19 and says she rejected a severance package that would have forced her to remain quiet about the internal controversy that led to her resignation.
Sey announced her departure in a Monday post on writer Bari Weiss’ Substack, Common Sense, in which she proclaimed, “I quit so I could be free.”
She said that she and the San Francisco-based company were in harmony until COVID-19 struck.
“Early on in the pandemic, I publicly questioned whether schools had to be shut down. This didn’t seem at all controversial to me. I felt — and still do — that the draconian policies would cause the most harm to those least at risk, and the burden would fall heaviest on disadvantaged kids in public schools, who need the safety and routine of school the most,” she wrote, noting that her comments stirred anger.
“In the summer of 2020,” Sey said, “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. I responded: ‘My title is not in my Twitter bio. I’m speaking as a public school mom of four kids.’
“But the calls kept coming. From legal. From HR. From a board member. And finally, from my boss, the CEO of the company. I explained why I felt so strongly about the issue, citing data on the safety of schools and the harms caused by virtual learning. While they didn’t try to muzzle me outright, I was told repeatedly to ‘think about what I was saying.’”
Although she said her liberal activism brought no objections from the company, she got a far different reaction when she wanted Levi Strauss to take a stand against school closures in San Francisco — closures that drove her to move to Colorado, where her kindergartener could attend school in person.
Sey said an appearance on the Fox News show “The Ingraham Angle” in March 2021 about her move to Denver was “the last straw.”
Employees began castigating her in company meetings.
“Meantime, the Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the company asked that I do an ‘apology tour,’” she wrote. Sey refused.
She said her longtime support for black employees and children meant nothing.
“The head of HR told me personally that even though I was right about the schools, that it was classist and racist that public schools stayed shut while private schools were open, and that I was probably right about everything else, I still shouldn’t say so. I kept thinking: Why shouldn’t I?” Sey wrote.
Then came the moment of truth. She was told she could become the next CEO of the company. “All I had to do was stop talking about the school thing,” she said.
However, Sey said, attacks against her continued.
“In the last month, the CEO told me that it was ‘untenable’ for me to stay. I was offered a $1 million severance package, but I knew I’d have to sign a nondisclosure agreement about why I’d been pushed out,” she wrote. “The money would be very nice. But I just can’t do it. Sorry, Levi’s.”
Sey said the company she loved is “trapped trying to please the mob — and silencing any dissent within the organization. In this it is like so many other American companies: held hostage by intolerant ideologues who do not believe in genuine inclusion or diversity.”
And the price was that as she was hounded, “no one stood with me,” Sey said. “Not one person publicly said they agreed with me, or even that they didn’t agree with me, but supported my right to say what I believe anyway.”
“I like to think that many of my now-former colleagues know that this is wrong,” she wrote. “I like to think that they stayed silent because they feared losing their standing at work or incurring the wrath of the mob. I hope, in time, they’ll acknowledge as much.
“I’ll always wear my old 501s. But today I’m trading in my job at Levi’s. In return, I get to keep my voice.”
Levi Strauss confirmed that Sey resigned but declined to comment on her allegations, according to Bloomberg. Seth Ellison, an executive vice president, will serve as an interim president while the company searches for a replacement for Sey.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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