Mecca addresses allegations of staff abuse
Cult make-up store Mecca is investigating allegations of staff mistreatment which have prompted the company to hire an external adviser to review its culture.
Mecca - which opened its first store in Melbourne in 1997 - now has 100 stores across Australian and New Zealand including a number of kiosks in Myer stores.
The company curates a selection of cosmetics from national and international brands as well as offering in-store makeup services.
Over the past few weeks, dozens of people claiming to be current and former staff have come forward anonymously to Instagram account Estee Laundry - an unofficial beauty industry watchdog which has recently started a petition and campaign to end bullying in the cosmetics industry.
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Have you been following our stories about #bullying and #discrimination at Australian beauty retailer #MeccaCosmetica #MeccaMaxima? We’ve received an overwhelming number of DMs from employees and customers claiming that they are bullied and discriminated against for not being skinny, Caucasian and/or not fitting the “Mecca look.” We’ve always heard stories about discrimination in Australia, but these stories take it to a new level. What should Mecca do to make things better? Should Mecca-exclusive brands like #Nars and #Hourglass do more to make sure they are partnering with the right retailers? Also, as consumers, what can we do to help?
While Mecca was not the only company to be named by disgruntled employees, it received a large number of complaints.
Among the allegations against Mecca are that staff are refused toilet breaks, bullied in front of customers, asked to write fake reviews for products on Mecca's website, paid for working overtime with testers and forced to resign after reporting bullying behaviour.
One staffer also claimed she was told she couldn't go home after finding out her best friend had cancer, and was denied a day off to attend the funeral.
Some on the page came to Mecca's defence labelling Estee Laundry's coverage of the issue a "witch hunt".
Purported current employees also hit back at the claims with one woman writing, "I am a current Mecca employee and I absolutely love my job … Mecca has taught me how to love myself, help others and I am supported by my team".
The allegations were rejected by Mecca CEO Jo Horgan who told News Corp staff were paid overtime "in line with legislation", as well as given "10 days per personal leave per year of service, which is paid as it is accrued" and three days bereavement leave per incident.
She further stated employees have access to "four different channels" to address concerns in the workplace including two external contacts.
Ms Horgan said she was taking the allegations against her company "seriously" and had hired an independent adviser to examine the company's practices.
"I want Mecca to be a place where our team and our customers can learn, thrive and feel empowered," she said.
"To anyone who has not had a positive experience with us, I am truly sorry.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the negative views recently expressed on social media reflect the views of the vast majority of our 4000 plus team members and 2 million customers.
"That said, we have listened to all concerns raised and are taking them seriously.
"We recognise that there are always things we can do better. An externally-led review of our culture and the way we work has commenced.
"We will make whatever changes are needed to ensure that Mecca is a positive and inclusive environment for everyone."
Former employee Brittany Withers, 29, worked at Mecca for two-years and said when she first started with the company she loved her job.
Ms Withers - who now runs her own business - quit in 2015 when the working environment became too much to bear after being transferred from Brisbane to the Gold Coast.
"I was super open to running my business on the side to stay working there. I used to joke I would work for free," she said.
"I really enjoyed the company and what they stood for and Jo (Horgan) and what she stood for."
After being transferred Brittany worked her way up the ranks to a management position, but soon began suffering physical and mental health problems, which she said were caused by stress and bullying behaviours in the store.
She said it wasn't one particular incident that caused her anguish, but rather a series of snide comments, nitpicking behaviour and favouritism by management.
"(Being) made to feel stupid in front of customers that was a massive thing," Brittany said.
"It was just constantly being made to feel like not doing a good enough job."
Brittany said she raised issues with the company about her store manager - along with other employees - which were investigated by HR.
In response to Brittany's claims Ms Horgan said there was no place for bullying in her business, but the company had "no record of anyone having multiple bullying complaints made against them".
Director of the Victorian-based Young Workers Centre (YWC), Felicity Sowerbutts told News Corp she was "concerned" for the welfare of Mecca staff.
"We've had over a dozen written comments from Mecca employees, who are mainly women in their 20s, and the complaints relate largely to bullying, intimidation, favouritism and discrimination," she said.
"The employees who have spoken to the Young Workers Centre are reporting being diagnosed with depression, anxiety in connection with the hazards they are experiencing at work.
"We'll be continuing to communicate with Mecca employees to support them to collectively map a way forward."
Ms Sowerbutts recommended affected staff contact the YWC.
The Fair Work Ombudsman was unable to comment on whether it had received any complaints about Mecca.
"We encourage any workers with concerns about their workplace entitlements to contact us directly for assistance," a spokesman said.