Levi Brand President Says She Was Ousted From Company for Protesting School Closures

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A successful executive to clothing brand Levi’s says she was ousted from her job over her refusal to stop criticizing ongoing school closures despite an otherwise impressive job performance at the company.

Jennifer Sey had worked for Levi’s since 1999 and was the company’s brand manager when she finally quit earlier this month.

Living in San Francisco through the pandemic, Sey began to speak out against the ongoing school closures that many parents felt were leaving their children at a disadvantage and, as she explained in a recent article published on Bari Weiss’ “Common Sense” newsletter, was impacted disadvantaged children the most.

“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.

“I was called a racist — a strange accusation given that I have two black sons — a eugenicist, and a QAnon conspiracy theorist,” she explained.

At the company, she was told to “pipe down,” being warned by Levi’s head of corporate communications that when she spoke, she was speaking “on behalf of the whole company.”

She replied that she was simply speaking as a mom and not a representative of Levi’s, but the intimidation to stop speaking out continued.

Noting that while she was never asked outright to stop her advocacy, she was repeatedly urged to “think about” what she was saying, a warning she was not given when she publicly condemned the “racially instigated murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd,” conversely.

Yet when it became clear in the fall of 2020 that schools in San Francisco would not be re-opening, she then suggested the company take a public stance as they have done so on many other issues, from gay rights to voting rights to gun safety, Sey noted.

“We don’t weigh in on hyper-local issues like this,” she says she was told. “There’s also a lot of potential negatives if we speak up strongly, starting with the numerous execs who have kids in private schools in the city.”

Sey, however, continued to weigh in on the issue as she eventually moved her family to Denver just so her children could attend school in-person.

Yet it was her appearance on Fox News that was the “final straw” for Levi leadership, she explained.

As Levi employees began to dissect her every tweet and comment, deriding her as racist, “anti-fat,” and transphobic, executives eventually suggested she go on an “apology tour” to assuage the controversy she was causing.

“In the fall of 2021, during a dinner with the CEO, I was told that I was on track to become the next CEO of Levi’s—the stock price had doubled under my leadership, and revenue had returned to pre-pandemic levels. The only thing standing in my way, he said, was me,” she explained. “All I had to do was stop talking about the school thing.”

Finally, last month, after activists began to issue angry tweets, calls, and emails, demanding the company remove her over her unsavory views, she was told she was “untenable” and offered a $1 mill severance package on the condition that she sign a severance package, which she refused.

“In my more than two decades at the company, I took my role as manager most seriously. I helped mentor and guide promising young employees who went on to become executives. In the end, no one stood with me,” she explained. “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. 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,” she concluded.

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