In Fashion, Verbal Abuse Is Going Out of Style


Susan Scafidi was quoted in The Cut about the decline of verbal abuse in the fashion industry.

An assistant who is called fat on a daily basis by her manager is, understandably, less protected by the law than a sexual-assault victim. Unlike sexual or physical assault, emotional and verbal abuse aren’t illegal. “In the case of an actual assault, there might be some kind of criminal action,” said Susan Scafidi, the director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham. “The likelihood of that, unless you’re seriously injured by a flying stiletto, is small.”

Though Hearst’s interns lost, the company ultimately decided to start paying its interns — now called “fellows” — an hourly wage anyway. “Even a failed lawsuit has the effect of changing practices within the industry,” Scafidi said. Both lawsuits sent a powerful message to fashion’s lowest level office workers: as fungible as you are, you are not helpless. The explosive #MeToo movement has only reinforced that notion, said Scafidi: “I think what we’re seeing is the beginning of an overall sea change.”

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