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Top Levi's executive takes stand, abruptly leaves job over attempts to silence her for opposing school closures

  Levi's executive Jennifer Sey explained Monday that she abruptly resigned her job at the clothing company over its attempts to silence...

 Levi's executive Jennifer Sey explained Monday that she abruptly resigned her job at the clothing company over its attempts to silence her for speaking about COVID-related school closures.

Sey is a former elite gymnast and former member of the United States women's gymnastics national team.

What happened?

Sey joined the jeans manufacturer in 1999 as an assistant marking manager. She rose through the corporate ranks and, before leaving the company, was executive vice president and president of the Levi's brand.

But she left behind her career — and a $1 million severance package — over freedom of expression, despite allegedly being next-in-line to become the company's CEO.

The problems, Sey explained in an essay published on Monday, began when the pandemic hit two years ago, resulting in schools shutting down.

"Early on in the pandemic, I publicly questioned whether schools had to be shut down. This didn’t seem at all controversial to me. 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," Sey explained.

After appearing on news shows, writing op-eds, meeting with local politicians, and becoming a known activist against school closures, Levi's allegedly began pressuring Sey to tone down her rhetoric. Better yet, the company wanted Sey to drop her schtick altogether.

But she persisted.

Unfortunately, it was an appearance with Fox News host Laura Ingraham that made Sey a target for hate.

Following that interview, Sey explained that Levi's employees called her "anti-science," "anti-fat" (because she shared data showing correlation between poor health and health complications), "anti-trans" (because she did not want to ditch "Mother's day" for "Birthing People's Day"), and, of course, racist. According to Sey, she was subjected to such hate in company town halls.

The head of diversity, equity, and inclusion then allegedly asked Sey to conduct an "apology tour" where she would tell employees that she was "an imperfect ally." That executive reportedly told Sey that she "was not a friend of the Black community at Levi’s." But she refused.

Then, last fall, Sey had dinner with Levi's CEO Charles Bergh, who informed Sey that she "was on track to become the next CEO of Levi’s." She only had to stop talking about opening schools. But she refused.

Then, after outside forces continued to pressure Levi's, Bergh allegedly told Sey that it was "untenable" for her to remain with the company. He reportedly offered her a $1 million severance package, which would have forced her to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But she refused.

"The money would be very nice. But I just can’t do it. Sorry, Levi’s," Sey said.

Levi's has already purged Sey's biography from its corporate leadership page.

But here is the irony

The political pressure put on Sey is ironic because, as Sey noted in her essay, Levi's has a history of speaking out about political issues, including on "gay rights, voting rights, gun safety, and more."

In fact, company employees had spoken about their disdain for Donald Trump, while Sey herself openly shared her support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and advocated for social justice.

"No one at the company objected to any of that," Sey said.

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