Staff at fashion group Ted Baker allege there is a culture of “forced hugging” by the firm’s founder and boss, which they are now demanding be ended.
A petition, launched by an employee, also accuses 62-year-old Ray Kelvin of inappropriate comments and behaviour.
“It is part of a culture that leaves harassment unchallenged,” they claim.
The company, which issues a trading update on Thursday, says hugs are “part of Ted Baker’s culture, but are absolutely not insisted upon”.
It said Mr Kelvin greeted many people with a hug, “be it a shareholder, investor, supplier, partner, customer or colleague”.
‘Clear and robust HR policies’
Ted Baker also said that the matters raised in the petition were “at odds with the values of our business and those of our CEO”.
But it said it would “ensure a thorough independent investigation is carried out” into the allegations.
One of the complaints made in the petition, launched on the workplace site Organise, is that previous complaints have been ignored.
“Please set up a way of reporting harassment to an independent, external body – HR has done nothing with the reports of harassment to date,” says the petition.
But the firm said there were “very clear and robust HR policies in place to provide all employees with a wide range of reporting options for any issues that they might encounter, including a completely confidential and anonymous, 24/7 helpline”.
Ted Baker, named after a fictitious alter ego of Mr Kelvin, opened its the first store in Glasgow in 1988 and now has more than 470 outlets worldwide selling fashion and accessories.
Mr Kelvin is worth £522m according to the Sunday Times Rich List.