HR under fire at Lululemon

The company's HR department had turned a blind eye to inappropriate relations between senior leaders and staff, former employees have alleged

Employees at Canadian athletic apparel company Lululemon have come forward with stories about the firm's supposed toxic workplace culture.

This comes two weeks after CEO Laurent Potevin stepped down from his post over behaviour that “fell short of (the company’s) standards of conduct”.

"Culture is at the core of Lululemon, and it is the responsibility of leaders to set the right tone in our organisation. Protecting the organisation's culture is one of the Board's most important duties,” Glenn Murphy, Executive Chairman of Lululemon’s Board of Directors, explained in an official statement.

Potevin's departure has prompted several staff members to speak out about one of the world’s largest athletic wear maker’s “unhealthy” environment.  

This had all started, allegedly, from his relationship with a female designer, who some employees felt was given unfair treatment.

Although he publicly revealed their affair during one of the company’s regular employee forums in 2014, the same year she quit, she was subsequently re-hired on contract terms.

One employee told online retailer and news portal Racked that the designer then enjoyed a "weird favouritism" within the company.

For example, on one project regarding the refresh of Lululemon’s website, she became the authoritative voice on all decisions, which made some uncomfortable.

“She began to get a level of influence over the company that seemed disproportionate to her apparent experience,” another employee said.

Instead of questioning the relationship between Potevin and his girlfriend, one source said that HR let it slide.

“There was literally zero accountability because HR’s attitude was that Lululemon employees should take responsibility, share things in a clearing (employee forum), and then move on,” said the source.

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