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Levi’s president quit and walked away from $1 million in severance so she could ‘be free’ to speak out against school closures

February 14, 2022, 4:28 PM UTC

Levi’s brand president Jennifer Sey has quit, and she says it’s because the denim company tried to silence her after she publicly spoke out against school closures during the COVID pandemic.

“More than 20 years ago, I joined Levi’s. I quit so I could be free,” Sey tweeted, linking to her essay published on Bari Weiss’s Substack newsletter.

In the essay, she detailed her experience working at Levi’s. After the COVID pandemic shut down schools, Sey became an outspoken advocate for keeping them open. She has four children.

She claims that Levi’s management urged her to stop speaking out on political issues, but she continued to do so. After she appeared on Fox News, she got questions from the team during a company town hall meeting.

Sey says she was told she could be the next CEO of Levi’s if she stopped publicly speaking out against school closures.

“Every day, a dossier of my tweets and all of my online interactions were sent to the CEO by the head of corporate communications,” she writes. “At one meeting of the executive leadership team, the CEO made an offhand remark that I was ‘acting like Donald Trump.’ I felt embarrassed and turned my camera off to collect myself.”

Sey says she was eventually told she didn’t have a long-term future with Levi’s and walked away from the company’s offer of a $1 million severance package because she would have had to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Levi’s did not immediately return Fortune’s request for comment.

Sey, a former gymnast, says she began her career at Levi’s in 1999, starting as an assistant marketing manager and working her way up the ranks before becoming the first woman brand president.

The decision about whether or not to keep schools open weighed heavily on educators and politicians during the pandemic. Many teachers unions have spoken out against keeping schools open, citing the dangers to students and teachers. But some prominent economists have spoken out against school closures, saying they do little to stop the spread of COVID while hurting children’s education.

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