At the end of February, Tyler “Ty” Haney, the founder of athleisure brand Outdoor Voices, stepped down from her spot as CEO. Since then, rumors have been flying about the reasons for what appeared to be a sudden departure. And now, a new Buzzfeed News story is reporting that the there was “a toxic, destructive, and, at times, abusive working culture” at the company.
Outdoor Voices became popular in large part for its “inclusive” messaging and its focus on encouraging all women of all abilities to find joy in movement. But in interviews with BuzzFeed, several current and former executives and employees — most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity — described the company as a stressful place to work.
BuzzFeed reports that employees said they were “belittled, berated, gaslighted, and underpaid for work that intruded into their personal lives.” A former director called her time working at the fitness brand “the most horrific experience of my life.”
“[Haney] spoke to me like I was in an abusive relationship,” she explained. “Each day I walked into that office I felt more and more worthless. She had beaten me down, like she had done to many others.” Employees added that Haney appointed unqualified friends to top positions, and said “Mean Girls” clique culture ran rampant.
One contracted marketing worker told BuzzFeed that she broke her toe during a pop-up event for the brand, after driving a U-Haul of equipment alone from San Francisco to Boulder, Colorado. “HR told me to go to Urgent Care, but I didn’t have a corporate card and couldn’t afford an expensive bill. I didn’t have health insurance,” she explained. Unable to drive and without support from Outdoor Voices, she ultimately paid for a plane ticket out of pocket, then went on workers’ compensation for three months. Ultimately, her contract was terminated.
Other employees were disappointed by the lack of diversity at Outdoor Voices, despite the brand’s inclusive messaging on social media. “Posting all those images was not done because of inclusivity,” one of the former employees said of the company’s Instagram. “It was not genuine and they were using POC bodies to sell an image to the public. From my perspective, as a woman of color, it felt off.”
Haney declined to comment for BuzzFeed‘s story, but shared a statement that said: “As a young founder, I know my strengths, and I was excited to bring in experienced retail leaders to scale. But in doing so, I was no longer able to lead this company in line with the values and vision that guided me early on. I’m heartbroken, but have learned a lot and know that OV is just the beginning for me.”
A spokesperson told the publication that Haney signed agreements that prevent her from talking about the company’s operations, and added: “Those speaking about her role at the company are putting out an inaccurate story about her leadership that they know she cannot publicly defend.”
In an Instagram caption posted on March 11, Haney said that she wanted to clear up a “one-sided narrative. “There is an unsettling trend lately to interview ex-employees of female-founded companies and report their claims either at face value or without any context,” she wrote. “These are trends that will only serve to drive women back out of the board room.”
Right now, Haney’s Instagram Stories are full of screenshots of encouraging messages she’s been getting from professional contacts, friends, and fans. Business Insider reported that female founders of startups such as Glossier, Away, and The Wing have also voiced support for Haney.
Outdoor Voices has not responded to Refinery29’s request for comment. A spokesperson for Haney pointed Refinery29 to her Instagram post.
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