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December 26, 2014 / 4 Tevet, 5775
 
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Too ‘Hot’ for Comfort, Temp Sues Orthodox Bosses in Failure to Communicate


Lauren Odes with her celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred at Monday's press conference.

Lauren Odes with her celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred at Monday's press conference.
Photo Credit: Screen shot

Native Intimates is an outfit that would not have made the cut at the Sunday Asifah by any stretch (so to speak). Its online blog promotes lingerie items with well written copy, a kind of “real women writing about their stuff” soft advertising which is both tasteful and appealing.

Of course, I don’t normally do my shopping at lingerie online outlets, and only went there looking for background material on a late breaking story that totally dovetails with the Asifah theme.

The owners of Native Intimates are Orthodox Jews. That by itself is not exactly shocking, since Jews of all stripes have been running New York’s garment industry since the early 20th century.

What’s unique about this particular outfit is their poor choice in letting go a female temp at their warehouse because she looked and dressed too provocatively for the workplace.

Not a good choice of words for employers in New York State. If the employee in question brings proof to back her allegations, which include a horror story of humiliation and ridicule, ending in termination, her frum bosses are in for a world of hurt.

Apparently, the part where she makes her accusations was extremely well staged for the benefit of the media. Reuters reported:

“Wearing a form-fitting sequined black dress and black leather, sequin-studded boots, Lauren Odes, 29, said her Orthodox Jewish employers at Native Intimates told her that outfit and others like it were ‘too hot’ for the warehouse.”

And she added: “We should not be judged by … the shape of our body.”

According to the NY Daily News, Odes told reporters that two days after she had been hired as data entry worker, back in April, a supervisor came over to let her know the Orthodox Jewish bosses were upset with the way she was dressing. Basically, they said, her looks were a dangerous distraction.

She said she agreed to switch to a gray T-shirt and black jeggings (leggings that are styled to look like tight denim jeans – I had to look it up) the next day. But the owners, she relates, were still unhappy.

It came down to the fact that her natural looks were simply too seductive, and she was even advised, so she says, to use tape to make herself less attractive to men.

Intimates’ website has been down, but their Facebook account is quite active, with a comment left by one Michael Blau: “Hello sexual harassing pigs. Have fun dealing with Gloria Allred…”

That’s Odes’s attorney, celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who has filed a gender and religious discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York.

“I understand there are Orthodox Jewish men who may have their views on how a woman should dress and how much she should be covered,” Odes said. “But I am Jewish as well and don’t feel any employer has the right to impose their religious beliefs on me.”

That last part is crucial. Because the lady in question has no perception of the fact that— from her employers’ point of view—she’s been imposing her standards and, yes, beliefs, on them.

The law may back her up and the company, like many others in the path of Gloria Allred, will eventually do the math and settle out of court (although I’m writing this without the benefit of speaking to them, and they could be presenting an entirely different version of the same events). But this is far from justice.

No one should have to endure unreasonable sexual tension in their own business. Just as women should not be subject to active sexual harassment in the workplace, so should men be entitled not to be passively harassed by temptations that disturb them.

The fact that they were not able to be straight forward with her about the conflict, as befits a relationship between real human beings, the fact that they couldn’t say, We’re sorry, you’re a nice person and all, but your physical attributes are making us uncomfortable, here’s two months’ pay plus a gift package, let’s part as friends – the fact they couldn’t do the menchy thing – is the fault of the law. And the PC environment we all live in.

If the Asifah last Sunday had touched on that – empowering Haredi men to spell out that which disturbs them about another person’s attire or behavior or even physical attributes, directly and honestly, without forgetting the other’s image of God – it would have been a smashing, historic success.

I fear that the opposite was true, and the Asifah was about getting even more insular and secluded culturally.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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16 Responses to “Too ‘Hot’ for Comfort, Temp Sues Orthodox Bosses in Failure to Communicate”

  1. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    I am afraid that, the attraction a man may feel for a woman, is in no way the responsibility of the woman. It is the man's responsibility to train himself to resist temptation. The attractiveness of women has so far been used as an excuse for everything from marrying them before their 12th birthday, to raping them, denying them the right to vote, drive, read, work, etc., or forcing them to hide from scalp to toes under a moving tent. Enough already. Men, control yourselves and stop putting the responsibility for your lust on us. When come the time to face Hashem, I doubt you will find much indulgence for your twisted thinking and forcing the companion he gave you into servitude.

  2. Yori Yanover says:

    Dear Muriel,

    With all due respect, your advice is "Just say no," in the immortal words of Nancy Reagan. But as forceful and righteous as that sentiment may be, it has not proven to be effective in curbin human vice.

    However, honesty about the issue can go a long way. Where control may be out of reach, admitting that control is not the way to go has yielded many a success story regarding a plethora of undesired behavior.

  3. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    It's not that simple. As a daughter, a sister, a wife, the mother of 4 sons (now grown), and an employee for many years, I've observed that the large majority of men are perfectly able to accept when a woman is off limit and do not suffer any trauma from resisting temptation. Self-control may be too hard for some men, but it doesn't give them the right to saddle women with the responsibility for their lust, nor does it allow men to exile women from society. If a man is unable to control his lust, then he should remove himself from the temptation and telecommute from home. In the case of this employer however, the solution was even simpler: he could have provided his employees with a decent uniform.

  4. Bub Gold says:

    Muriel spouts hypocritical narishkeit. The furthest extension of her position is that women may worked naked, or with pasties and a string bikini, with impunity. B.S. straight from the playbook of N.O.W. and other feminazis. It is a simple, incontrovertible fact of nature that women – their shape, their appearance – are highly, distractedly sexually attractive to normal men. Women – including con-artist deniers like Muriel – are well aware of this. As the article notes, what about the other workers' rights?!

  5. A dress code policy is perfectly legitimate for a business to enforce. Their mistake is probably in not officially publishing one.

    Typical small business boo-boo.

  6. No. A dress code that has nothing to do with health or safety on an employee who works in a warehouse is not legitimate. This company does not require uniforms. Saying someone is dressing too "hot" is not legal and she will rightly win the case.

  7. Ken Sperber says:

    I am an owner in a small business. The overwhelming majority of our employees are women in their 30s and 40s. There is nothing "typical" about this "mistake." It doesn't take a Ph.D. in law to recognize the hazzards here. We have a dress code. It absolutely requires professional attire–not merely for "health" but also for professionalism. Sexy/revealing is not cool. If it becomes a problem, feedback is given *and documented meticulously." A clear file of communication must be created before firing someone or we will be sued. And we know it. Because it's obvious.

  8. Yosef Chiger says:

    I just wonder why so-called Super Frum Jews are making lingerie? Especially the kinds of lingerie I heard they make.

  9. Is the law going to require that every employer — no matter how big or small — publish a dress code?

    If I were to ask my cleaning lady or nanny to dress or not dress in a certain way when she's working in my house, am I to expect Gloria Allred knocking on my door? Am I required to publish a "dress code" and post it on my front door?

  10. No, but you'll suffer the consequences if you don't. This is what a litigious society creates. There's no personal responsibility.

    I would love to see Allred walk into court wearing some hoochie outfit, or a pair of sweats and a workout top, and see if the judge doesn't throw her ass into a cell for contempt.

    Better yet, the DEFENSE lawyer should, and say, "if you hold me in contempt, you've rendered the verdict on this case."

    David Berenthal, thoughts?

  11. Ken Sperber says:

    Daniel Melman Yes. If you want to avoid (and/or successfully defend) wrongful termination and/or sexual harrassment suits, an ounce of risk management in the first place goes a long way.

  12. Lisa Geller says:

    Agree with Marc (at least on this one!). They can enforce a dress code, if they have one. Their problem is that this seems to have been handled as a one-off situation. Further, even when they complained, it does not sound as if they were specific enough about how she should dress. Not everyone has the same interpretation of "modest". They can't criticize her body shape, but they can have a universally-applied dress code that specifies things like sleeve length, collar height, skirt length, etc. It isn't hard, my kids' elementary schools even publish those guidelines in their student handbook.

  13. Ken Sperber says:

    I actually also agree–they can absolutely have a consistently applied and clearly communicated dress code.

  14. Yarden Frankl you're absolutely wrong.

  15. Gideon Jones says:

    This has nothing to do with men not being able to control themselves. Sheesh, we aren't muslims. (that is their reasoning). It has to do with men being around immodesty. They can control themselves fine, but such is not the place for a Holy person.

    But that being said, this issue is about the rights of a business owner. The woman has no right to dress however she wants in someone else's business. I have no idea what these guys were thinking when they hired her, but she has no right to sue.

    If she had any class, (she worked there what? A few months at most? maybe less?) she would have left without issues.

    This isn't about her rights, or women's rights, or discrimination it is about MONEY!

  16. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    exactly. With a coherent dress code, there would have been no problem

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