Former Gucci Store Employee Takes Legal Action for the Second Time This Year

A former Gucci store employee in Chicago has filed a civil class action amended lawsuit alleging consumer fraud and false business practice.

Tracy Cohen, who worked in the Chicago store for 18 years, took legal action Wednesday against Kering Americas and Gucci America in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. She is demanding a jury trial. Cohen joined the company in August 2006 and exited in October 2023. During her tenure, she claimed to have generated more than $50 million in sales and was the top-performing Chicago store employee for six consecutive years from 2017-2023.

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This is the second time this year that Cohen has taken legal action against both parties. In a complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois in late January, she alleged that she was subject to discriminatory comments about her age and mental health, while employed by Gucci.

A Gucci spokesperson said Friday, “We are aware of the recent lawsuit that has been filed by Ms. Cohen. As company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation or publicly disclose information about former or current employees. We plan to vigorously defend this action in court.”

Cohen claimed that she was trained to perform a “selling ceremony” when presenting exotic skinned bags. That allegedly involved putting on black gloves and then telling the customer that “the skins were sourced ethically; the snakes and crocodiles were not tortured; the snake skins were obtained through a natural shedding process; and the hides are a byproduct of the meat industry; and, we only work with suppliers that have certified humane treatment of animals.”

Her “trusting customers” then “relied on her representations, and as a result, she sold countless Gucci products, crafted from ‘exotic’ crocodile/alligator and python skins, including but not limited to men’s loafers, women’s sandals, wallets, luggage, and handbags,” according to the complaint.

Cohen’s filing also cited that Kering Americas and Gucci America publicly posted their Code of Ethics, claiming ethics is at the heart of their business conduct and that they have a “powerful moral commitment,” as well as a “culture of integrity.”

In this week’s filing, Cohen claimed that she never would have deceived her customers or personally purchased python-skin bags and shoes over several years had she known of alleged practices of violently killing the pythons.

Her more recent filing was prompted by news coverage of an investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Asia division into two python farms in Thailand that allegedly provided exotic skins to the Kering-owned Caravel and had uncovered “abusive python killing practices.” Those two farms were said to be Sisatchanalai Python Farm and Closed-Cycle Breeding International.

Cohen is seeking emotional distress damages, which would only be awarded by a jury, and compensation for the exotic skin Gucci products that she purchased, as well as potentially those that were sold to her customers, according to one of her attorneys, Tamara Holder-DeMaio. Cohen’s four python purchases — two pairs of shoes and two bags — were estimated to be worth less than $10,000, said Holder-DeMaio.

As for Cohen’s earlier complaint, which includes claims of trafficking as well as discrimination, due to off-hours work, she is seeking the maximum amount of damages for the numerous counts, her lawyer said. Cohen’s monthly sales goal of $300,000 “was humanly impossible to achieve while working in the store,” she added. A status report is due July 1 for that case, and the first court date for the class action filing is scheduled for October, Holder-DeMaio said.

This week’s filing said that Cohen “truly loved selling Gucci’s products” and her “dream was to one day earn a promotion that placed her in Italy, working for Gucci.“

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