American haircare giant Paul Mitchell is coming under fire thanks to a strongly-worded new lawsuit in which a former employee alleges that she was discriminated against after being pressured into having a sexual relationship with Angus Mitchell, John Paul Mitchell Systems (“JPMS”) co-owner and son of the company’s founder Paul Mitchell. According to Tally Rossi’s suit, which was filed in California state court on Monday, Angus Mitchell “has a history of using JPMS as a hunting ground to find women to date and have sex with.”
Tally Rossi – who, until recently, served as a media project manager at JPMS – alleges that in September 2015, Mitchell invited her to his home, gave her a glass of wine, and while they were talking about his recent divorce, he “grabbed [her] by the face and forcibly kissed her without her consent.” On another occasion, Rossi alleges that Mitchell pressured her into taking ecstasy and “had sex with her.”
Fearful that she would lose her job, Rossi says she “relented” and over the next several months, “engaged in a sexual relationship with Mitchell.” In or around January 2016, “immediately” after Rossi broke off the relationship, she claims that she “began being retaliated against at work.”
Rossi asserts that she was “removed from scheduled trainings and photoshoots that Mitchell was scheduled to attend, was demoted and transferred to a position in a department in which she had no experience, received a negative performance evaluation for the first time in her career at JPMS, did not receive an expected bonus, was told she was ‘lucky to still have a job,’ and told she was going to get fired but was demoted instead.”
According to the lawsuit, “It was clear that [Rossi] was being retaliated against for refusing to continue having a sexual relationship with Mitchell.”
“After [Rossi] confided in Mitchell’s personal assistant about her intentions to disclose the relationship with Mitchell [upon the advice of her therapist], Mitchell reached out to her repeatedly in an attempt to silence her and prevent her from disclosing what he had done.” Eventually, Rossi says that she agreed to meet Mitchell in March 2016 “to discuss how she was been being treated at work.”
During that meeting, Mitchell “expressed that he felt bad about how [Rossi] was being treated at work.” The complaint states that Mitchell and Rossi then had sex “one last time because [Rossi] felt pressured by [Mitchell] and reasonably believed that refusing to do so would have another negative effect on her work/her ability to support herself.” The following day, after having “begged Rossi not to say anything” the night before, Mitchell allegedly wired Rossi $50,000.
Several days later, Rossi confronted JPMS president Luke Jacobellis and told him that in light of continued retaliation and “mocking by members of JPMS management,” she “didn’t feel she had a place at JPMS anymore.” Rossi alleges that “instead of reassuring her, Jacobellis simply asked her whether she wanted to leave immediately or at the end of the day,” which Rossi considers to amount to “constructive termination.”
As a result, she is suing JPMS for discrimination and harassment on the basis of sex, failure to prevent harassment or discrimination, and constructive wrongful termination all in violation of California state law.