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Away CEO steps down after report of "toxic" work environment

Jordan Freiman

Away CEO Steph Korey is stepping down following a report in The Verge documenting a "toxic" working environment at the company. The luggage company announced Korey would be replaced by Lululemon Chief Operating Officer Stuart Haselden.

Haselden will assume the role of CEO starting January 13, 2020. Korey will remain a member of Away's board of directors, along with Away co-founder Jen Rubio, and will become the company's Executive Chairman. Haselden will also be a member of the board of directors.

In The Verge's December 5 report, multiple former Away employees complained about the working conditions at the company. They stated they worked excessively long hours with no overtime pay and were discouraged from taking time off. The former employees also shared screenshots of messages from Korey chastising their performance on Slack, the chat app Away uses, in a public channel where other employees could see her messages.

"It could've just been a co-worker pulling them aside and saying this isn't cool," one former employee said, recalling an instance of being rebuked on Slack. "It felt like they were publicly outing the situation so that everybody could follow along."

In another instance, Korey allegedly told a team they'd be temporarily forbidden from taking paid time off under the guise of "career development."

"I know this group is hungry for career development opportunities, and in an effort to support you in developing your skills, I am going to help you learn the career skill of accountability," Korey wrote to her "customer experience" team at 3 a.m. on Slack. She then explained that another team would start contacting the customer experience team on live chat three times a day at random. Korey told the customer experience team that no new paid time off or work from home requests would be granted "until we reach 5 consecutive days of all our attempts to reach cx on live platforms being successful."

"I hope everyone in this group appreciates the the thoughtfulness I've put into creating this career development opportunity and that you're all excited to operate consistently with our core values to solve this problem and pave the way for the cx team being best-in-class when it comes to being Customer Obsessed," Korey wrote, according to screenshots shared with The Verge. 

"I can imagine how people felt reading those messages from the past, because I was appalled to read them myself," Korey said in response  to the report. "I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple."

The report was not mentioned in the press release announcing Away's decision to bring on Haselden.

"Stuart's impressive track record in strategically scaling retail businesses and teams offers invaluable expertise as Away enters its next phase of growth," Korey said in the press release. "I believe Stuart's leadership, supported by other key executives who have joined Away this year, will have an enormous impact on our business, community, and culture, and we look forward to learning from his depth of experience."

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