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Manager Fired for Refusing to Fire “Unattractive” Woman, Suit Charges

A former L’Oreal regional sales manager has filed a suit against the company alleging she was fired after a male executive told her to dismiss a salesperson because she was unattractive, according to the Associated Press. The New York Times reports that the regional sales manager, Elysa Yanowitz, at first ignored the order from John Wiswall, general sales manager of L’Oreal’s designer fragrance division, to “get [him] somebody hot” for the perfume counter at Macy’s in San Jose, California. On another visit to the store a few weeks later, Wiswall reportedly said “Didn’t I tell you to get rid of her?” and, referring to a blond woman, said, “Get me one that looks like that,” according to the Times.

Yanowitz refused to fire the woman, who was one of the western region’s highest-selling salespeople. She claims that this decision led to her subsequent dismissal in 1998 from the company after 18 years, the Times reports. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the woman was of Middle Eastern descent. “It was disturbing enough to me as a professional woman that he would make such a demand,” Yanowitz told the Times. “It was bad enough that he gave me no legitimate reason to fire a capable, perfectly presentable employee. But to refer in an offensive manner to a saleswoman who was almost young enough to be his granddaughter was disgusting.

The company claims they fired Yanowitz because she was making mistakes, though the Times points out that the year before she was fired, Yanowitz was named regional sales manager of the year. The lawsuit was dismissed by a Superior Court judge but reinstated by an appellate panel in March, which ruled that Yanowitz could file a claim against the company under California’s fair employment law, according to AP. L’Oreal on Friday announced its plans to ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling; if the Supreme Court declines, the case may go to trial, according to the Times.

Sources:

New York Times 4/11/03; Associated Press 4/11/03; San Francisco Chronicle 3/8/03