Levi Brand Boss Exits After Dispute Over School-Mask Opposition

A top Levi Strauss & Co. executive said she left the denim maker after more than two decades because her outspoken opposition to Covid-19 policies in schools created a fraught work environment for her.

Jennifer Sey, who was the company’s global brand president, said she passed up a $1 million severance package that would have come with a nondisclosure agreement so she could publicly discuss the circumstances of her departure. She shared her story in a 1,700-word post in the Substack newsletter of writer and editor Bari Weiss.

In the post, Sey described her two-decade rise through the company as marketing director and chief marketing officer, culminating in her naming as brand president in 2020. At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, she frequently wrote op-eds and appeared on news shows and at rallies to advocate for schools to reopen without mask rules.

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“I felt — and still do — that the draconian policies would cause the most harm to those least at risk, and the burden would fall heaviest on disadvantaged kids in public schools, who need the safety and routine of school the most,” she wrote.

Sey faced pushback on social media and soon from her colleagues, she said. Levi’s heads of corporate communications and diversity asked her to quiet her views on the topic and go on an “apology tour,” Sey said.

In the fall of 2021, she said, Chief Executive Officer Chip Bergh told Sey she was “on track to become the next CEO of Levi’s.” Sey said that Bergh added that the only thing standing in her way was herself and that she had to “stop talking about the school thing.”

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Levi didn’t immediately respond to request for comment on Sey’s post and departure.

The San Francisco-based company is known for being vocal about political stances — a historical rarity for corporations, which usually try to not alienate wide swaths of consumers. Sey highlighted this fact in her post and contrasted it with Levi’s treatment of her views.

Levi shares were little changed in New York trading Monday. The stock is up 7.8 percent in the year through Feb. 11.

By Jordyn Holman

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