Bridal designer Hayley Paige Gutman is suing Joseph Murphy, the CEO of fashion brand JLM Couture, alleging that he sexually harassed her and otherwise created a hostile work environment. Gutman, who is best known for her appearances on Say Yes to the Dress, began working for fashion company JLM Couture in 2011 and has been locked in a very public and very messy legal battle with the company for months over the rights to her name “Hayley Paige” (which is also the name of her brand) as well as ownership over her personal social media accounts—the company went so far as to file a restraining order to prevent Gutman from posting on the “Hayley Paige” social media accounts without Murphy’s permission.
In her new lawsuit, which was filed in the Southern District of New York on Monday evening, Gutman alleges that Murphy sexually harassed her to the point that she started carrying an X-Acto knife around the office to protect herself. Page Six reports that according to the suit, “with full knowledge of the implicit threat of this behavior, Murphy would often summon Hayley to a crammed secluded back office, use his physically imposing nature to block the door, and engage in inappropriate and invasive personal conversations into Hayley’s romantic relationships, sex life, and family life.” Gutman alleges that incidents like these took such a toll on her mental health that she began carrying “a sharp object such as a seam ripper or Exacto [sic] knife” to her meetings with Murphy. Murphy also allegedly “ogled at her private parts, said lewd things to her and otherwise engaged in numerous inappropriate conversations with and inappropriate behavior toward Hayley.”
In addition to Murphy’s sexual harassment of her, Gutman’s lawsuit accuses the JLM Couture CEO of having inappropriate relationships with several staffers who worked below him at the company. “Employees who engaged in extremely personal or sexual relationships with Murphy were treated more favorably and given special treatment, such as not having to come into the office during work hours, than those employees who did not,” the suit claims. The lawsuit also states that Gutman believes that in one of the affairs, “Murphy fathered a child with the employee while he was married to another woman.”
In the lawsuit, Gutman says she struggled with hair loss and sleeping issues as well as mental health issues due to the environment at the company. According to Page Six, JLM Couture and Murphy both denied the allegations, saying that they were a “desperate attempt [by Guutman] to influence public opinion after losing in court.”