Thinx Founder Miki Agrawal Accused of Sexual Harassment
The woman behind period underwear is being accused of sexual harassment.
Former Thinx employee Chelsea Leibow has filed a complaint with the City of New York Commission on Human Rights, reports New York Magazine. In the complaint, Leibow alleges that the company’s founder and former CEO Miki Agrawal made inappropriate comments and touched employees’ breasts without consent, among other offenses.
The former head of the company’s public relations, Leibow stated in her complaint that Agrawal’s “generally aggressive and retaliatory demeanor, position of authority, and style of management” made her too intimidated to speak up about behavior that made her uncomfortable. She told New York Magazine: “I felt that Miki objectified my body when she declared that she was ‘obsessed’ with it and made very detailed comments about my breasts, and it also seemed like a way for Miki to assert her dominance over female employees by simply doing whatever she wanted to do without asking, and showing she could get away with it.”
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Agrawal declined to comment on the allegations, directing Fortune to her Medium post, which was written last week and which was updated with the following statement: “Re: most recent allegations: The company commissioned a third party employment law firm to conduct extensive diligence on each allegation and they all came back false and without any merit.”
In the original post, the founder acknowledges that she “didn’t take time to think through” human resources.
“We grew so quickly and I didn’t hire an HR person (it was hard to rationalize hiring an HR person at the time with only 15 employees and then all of a sudden we were 30 people),” she writes. “I didn’t call references because I needed butts in seats fast. I didn’t put HR practices in place because I was on the road speaking, doing press, brand partnerships, editing all of the creative and shouting from the rooftops about THINX so we can keep going.”
Agrawal also confirmed in the post that she is stepping down as Thinx’s CEO: “I’m not the best suited for the operational CEO duties nor was it my passion to do so, so after 12 years of thinking about and working on THINX (my twin sis and I came up with the idea in 2005), I officially stepped down as CEO. And proudly. My favorite saying is ‘iteration is perfection’ and this is simply part of the iterative process of growing a business. My head is high.”
The blog post and Leibow’s formal complaint were both written after a flurry of critical articles about Thinx’s culture and substandard HR benefits. As one (unnamed) former employee described it to Racked: “It honestly felt like a middle school environment: pitting people against each other, calling us petty children and [saying that we were] immature and that we’re all these millennials that don’t know anything — meanwhile we’re being paid easily $30,000 under industry standard salaries…It was truly like being in an abusive relationship.”
Though she has handed over the reigns of Thinx and her incontinence underwear company ICON (she also founded a third company, Tushy, though she never held the role of company chief), Agrawal says will remain involved as the period underwear company as “SHE-E-O” and continue to “focus on what [she does] best: shouting from the rooftops about why period underwear is the bee’s knees.”