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Image: GUESS

“GUESS has known for over a decade that Paul Marciano is a recidivist sexual predator, and has chosen to harbor and enable him as he devastates women’s lives. Instead of listening to at least seven women who went on the record against its Founder, Board member and Chief Creative Officer, GUESS has kept Marciano at its helm, allowing him to continue to use his prestigious position to lure and sexually assault more young female models.” That is what an unnamed plaintiff asserts in the lawsuit that she filed against Marciano and GUESS?, Inc. in a California state court last week. 

According to her complaint, “Jane Doe” claims that she was sexually assaulted by Marciano on multiple occasions beginning in September 2017 when he “grabbed Ms. Doe’s breasts” after a photoshoot. Thereafter, Ms. Doe asserts that “Marciano repeatedly asked [her] for topless photos on WhatsApp,” simultaneously bringing up “how he had just spoken to a GUESS booker about her or [that he] had her in mind for upcoming jobs,” and as a result, she says that she “felt pressured to send Marciano photos or risk insulting him and not getting more work with GUESS.” 

All the while, “Marciano frequently told Ms. Doe about GUESS jobs he had coming up, dangling career opportunities to keep her quiet.” 

Fast forward to February 2020, and following a break from modeling, Ms. Doe alleges that “Marciano reached out to [her] and asked her to meet him at an address in West Hollywood.” Ms. Doe says that she “agreed as she believed that Marciano wanted to meet with her to discuss her modeling career post childbirth and book her for a new GUESS campaign.” Upon her arrival at what turned out to be an empty apartment, Ms. Doe claims that Marciano forced himself on her and forced her “to perform oral sex on him.” 

Afterwards, she contends that “Marciano gave [her] a $1,000 GUESS gift card, [and] as she was leaving, he told her that he was going to book her for more work, mentioned an upcoming GUESS campaign, and even said that she should consider moving closer to GUESS’ studios for future jobs.” Ms. Doe asserts that she “understood this to mean that she should not tell anyone about the assault if she wanted keep working with GUESS and was being booked for more work at GUESS because she had submitted to Marciano’s sexual advances.” 

After her “mental health declined precipitously” as a result of the “harrowing sexual assault,” Ms. Doe claims that on September 29, 2020, she submitted “a formal written complaint to Susan Tenney, GUESS’ Senior Director of Human Resources, about Marciano’s sexual assaults and harassment,” reporting that Marciano “had been sexually harassing and groping her since 2017 and that he had forced her to perform oral sex on him in February 2020.” 

During a fitting for a GUESS shoot a month later, Ms. Doe alleges that Human Resources “brought her into a meeting and told her they did not see any evidence of sexual harassment, even though they had not interviewed her and there was no sign they ever did a real investigation.” Instead, the HR rep old her that “Marciano considered her complaint a ‘glitch’ in their relationship and said they considered the situation to be fixable.” Doe says that she was “offered her more work and money during the meeting, the implication being that they wanted to keep her case quiet.” 

She claims that she was ultimately replaced by another model for a scheduled shoot in “retaliation” for her complaint about Marciano, arguing that “after her September 2020 written sexual harassment complaint, GUESS has never allowed Ms. Doe to work there again. It cancelled her campaign and has not offered her any further work.” 

In addition to setting out claims of quid pro quo sexual harassment, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment, among other claims against Marciano, Ms. Doe alleges that GUESS?, Inc. is also on the hook in connection with its failure to “take immediate and appropriate corrective action by failing and refusing to remedy the hostile work environment and by failing and refusing to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring by permitting Marciano to continuously harass [Ms. Doe].” 

Hardly the first instance in which Marciano has been accused of sexual assault, Doe asserts that “GUESS has been on notice since at least 2009 that Marciano sexually harasses and assaults female models,” as in 2009 Marciano was sued in 2009 by a model who accused him of “fondl[ing] her breasts and buttocks,” and telling her that he “wanted to take her right there.” After that, GUESS “publicly settled five more sexual assault claims against him in 2018 for $500,000.” 

“In June 2018, after a barrage of negative media about Marciano’s predations, GUESS announced that Marciano would leave GUESS,” per Ms. Doe, but the company ultimately “reversed its position in January 2019 and announced that Marciano would stay on as a GUESS Board member and Chief Creative Officer.” 

While “other companies listened to women and removed top executives during the #MeToo movement, GUESS did not,” Ms. Doe alleges in her complaint, “because GUESS prioritizes profits over the safety of its models, it has kept Marciano as an executive with frequent access to them, wielding make-or- break power over their careers.” 

In enabling Marciano to retain his role after the 2009 lawsuit and again, after the dust settled on the 2018 settlements, Ms. Doe claims that GUESS?, Inc. not only “failed to prevent discrimination and harassment” by the company’s founder, it “created, fostered, tolerated, and condoned a work environment that was pervasively and/or severely hostile to [Ms. Doe].” And this was despite “multiple complaints and opportunities [for GUESS?, Inc.] to address pervasively hostile conditions, sexual harassment and circumstances of discrimination on the basis of gender.” 

As a result, Ms. Doe claims that she “has suffered and continues to suffer great pain of mind and body, shock, emotional distress, physical manifestations of emotional distress, embarrassment, loss of self-esteem, disgrace, humiliations, and loss of enjoyment of life; has suffered and continues to suffer and was prevented and will continue to be prevented from performing daily activities and obtaining the full enjoyment of life; will sustain loss of earnings and earning capacity, and/or has incurred and will continue to incur expenses for medical and psychological treatment, therapy, and counseling.” 

With the foregoing in mind, Ms. Doe accuses Marciano and GUESS of 14 causes of action, including but not limited to sexual harassment, gender violence, retaliation, negligent supervision, and negligent interference with prospective economic relations, and in addition to seeking a jury trial, Doe is seeking a whole host of damages, such as those to cover “past and future medical and related expenses” incurred by Ms. Doe, “past and future lost earnings,” and punitive damages, among others, all to be determined at trial. 

In response to the complaint, Marciano’s attorney Gary Jay Kaufman stated in a comment to WWD that Ms. Doe’s accusations are “pure fiction … designed to provoke sensational media attention and extract outrageous sums of money.” He further stated, “We view this as a shakedown that will become crystal clear when all of the facts and evidence are presented in court.”

Meanwhile, Doe’s counsel Lisa Bloom stated this week that “7 women THAT WE KNOW ABOUT have gone on the record with allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault against Paul Marciano. The company kept him. My client is number 8 . . . or higher, who knows?” 

*The case is Jane Doe v. Paul Marciano, GUESS?, Inc., et al., 21STCV02126 (Cal.Sup.)