The clothing company Nasty Gal, which is either an inspiring story of #girlboss entrepreneurdom or a really hellish place to work, depending on who you ask, is laying off employees today. Women’s Wear Daily reports that 19 people were laid off, or about ten percent of the staff; a source at the company tells Jezebel people have been pulled aside one by one to be let go all day, with at least ten people gone by 2 p.m.
“They got rid of all of the senior buyers, most of the tech and production teams, and creative positions,” the source told us.
In a statement to WWD, Nasty Gal CEO Sheree Waterson confirmed the layoffs:
“Today we had to layoff 19 employees as part of a strategic restructuring,” said Sheree Waterson, Nasty Gal chief executive officer, in a statement today. “While this was a difficult decision to make, it is necessary and will allow us to continue to evolve as a company.”
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Nasty Gal previously laid off ten percent of its staff in 2014, the same year founder Sophia Amoruso published Girlboss, the memoir that positioned her as a millennial girl-power business hero. The company raised $16 million C series funding this time last year.
Several recently departed employees told Jezebel in June that the company had become an extremely dysfunctional place to work. The company was sued for allegedly firing several pregnant employees, during or just after their maternity leave. Those cases were settled in a confidential arbitration proceeding; so was the case of an employee who says she was laid off while suffering from advanced kidney failure. The employee, Farah Saberi, alleged that Nasty Gal let her insurance coverage lapse, in violation of her severance agreement, and that her desperately-needed kidney transplant was put on hold by her insurance company due to the lapse.
A current employee told Jezebel this winter that the office environment had grown very tense, with CEO Sheree Waterson delivering screaming tirades almost daily. In one bizarre incident, the employee said, Waterson spent almost a full day “freaking out” about Nasty Gal’s downtown office being dirty and trying to clean the refrigerator.
The employee called the environment “emotionally abusive,” adding, “Work is a constant fire drill based on Sheree’s whims that week. Her expectation is that we should work 7 days a week. There is never positive feedback. Only lectures and insults. What’s the opposite of being empowered? Marginalized? Everyone has developed stress related illnesses from shingles to IBS to stress eczema.”
“Honestly, things are getting kinda nuts” another current employee agreed at the time. “I love my job, but I hate working for this company... and of course the whole problem lies with upper management.”
One of those current employees also said, a little bitterly, that it’s tough to watch the world fete Amoruso again for her powerful brand of female leadership while the company, in their perception, drowns.
“It’s so ironic to see how much of the world has been drinking the #girlboss kool-aid,” she writes in an email. “The actual environment at NG couldn’t be any more different from what Sophia portrays to the world.”
In October, Amoruso told Entrepreneur that success “is a term you define for yourself. There’s no ultimate destination. I’ve done some things successfully and have done just as many things unsuccessfully. ”
Jezebel emailed Nasty Gal’s press team, as well as Amoruso and Waterson individually, for comment and will update if we hear back.
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Amoruso at a Teen Vogue party, October 2015. Image via AP.