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L’Oreal hit with abuse allegations

May 12,2018
L’Oreal’s Korean employees apparently aren’t worth it, despite the company’s slogan.

The global cosmetics giant’s local operation is under fire after an audio recording of an executive verbally abusing an employee went viral on Wednesday.

“Your existence doesn’t even compare to the dead skin cell of a toe,” and, “It seems like a retard like you is trying to use your brain,” are some of the comments from the executive heard on the file.

The victim of the harassment claimed that these demeaning remarks were just a small sample of the abuse he put up with over the years he worked for L’Oreal Korea. The incidents heard in the audio recording happened in June 2016 and January 2017.

“I was insulted for several years and had to withstand verbal abuse,” said the employee. “Due to the extreme stress, I also had to enter therapy for my mental health.”

In January, one of his colleagues emailed an audio file containing harsh remarks made by the same executive to the entire company.

When he couldn’t take the insults anymore, he sent his own audio recording to L’Oreal Korea’s second labor union, which delivered the file to the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily.

L’Oreal Korea decided to take disciplinary action against the executive by cutting his pay for six months, when the initial email sent by the former employee was sent.

Several other employees at L’Oreal Korea formed the company’s second labor union, and called for an investigation of the case, the introduction of measures to prevent abuse and a formal apology from the company. Despite being punished, the executive is still allegedly abusing his power.

According to other employees at the company, he often flips over workers’ bags to examine what they are carrying and looks through their private KakaoTalk messages under the pretext of disciplinary or educational reasons.

“I used a seven-day vacation to celebrate the 15 years I have been working for this company,” said another employee who wished to remain anonymous. “But when I got back, [the executive] told me it seemed like I didn’t want to work anymore, and that he would give me my paycheck in advance if I quit.”

Another former employee said that the executive insulted him for wearing glasses and not wearing a white button-down shirt. L’Oreal Korea is also facing criticism for its treatment of men who take paternity leave.

When one employee took three months of paternity leave from November to January, his supervisor allegedly told him that “no good comes when a male uses [paternity leave]” and that his “job would not exist” if he returned. His supervisor asked him to accept three months advance pay in exchange for resigning. When he declined the offer and returned to his job, he wasn’t given any assignments for two months and was later transferred to the HR department.

L’Oreal Korea told reporters that it “sees the other incidents that have happened as separate from the case of the former employee,” and that the company is carrying out internal investigations into each separate case.


BY CHO HAN-DAE [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]