Suit claims Lululemon worker raped by boss after company created 'perfect environment' for sex predator

Key Points
  • A new suit says a Lululemon store employee was raped by a supervisor at his home after the workout gear company "created the perfect environment for a sexual predator."
  • Shayla Famouri is suing Lululemon and her alleged attacker, Phillip Silva, to "prevent this from happening to other people," her lawyer said.
  • Famouri's suit claims that Lululemon was aware of allegations that Silva was "sexually inappropriate" with other female workers before she was attacked.
Athletic apparel sits on display inside a Lululemon Athletica store.
Xaume Olleros | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A new lawsuit claims a supervisor at one of Lululemon's stores in California raped an employee after the workout garb company "created the perfect environment for a sexual predator."

The suit alleges that Lululemon was long aware that supervisor Phillip Silva had a history of being "sexually inappropriate" with female employees — and actually transferred him from one store to another because of that — before he allegedly raped a female worker at his home in April 2016.

"They knew about this guy, and they should have done something about it, and they didn't," said Adam Zaffos, the lawyer for Silva's accuser, Shayla Famouri.

Zaffos said Famouri, 28, is suing because "she really wants to prevent this from happening to other people."

Famouri's suit claims that before she was attacked, she was "ostracized" by supervisors and co-workers for not wearing "revealing enough clothes," and heard "rampant" gossip about "dating and hook ups" among Lululemon staff.

Famouri for several weeks witnessed co-workers slapping "each other's asses as much as possible" to mock a video they had been recently shown illustrating sexual harassment, according to her complaint. "The Store Manager, Assistant Managers and Key Leaders were not only aware of the 'game,' they encouraged it and participated," the suit said.

Lululemon, known for its stretch yoga pants, also allegedly allowed male workers to proposition female co-workers during work hours, according to Famouri's lawsuit against the company and Silva, which was filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

And after Famouri reported being raped by Silva, her suit says, Lululemon's human resources department repeatedly pressured her to resign and to accept a payout. Instead of doing so, she just never returned to work, her lawyer said.

The suit seeks unspecified damages for sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment, retaliation and other claims.

Silva did not respond to a request for comment. He has made his social media accounts private.

A Lululemon spokesman said, in response to questions about the suit, "In 2016, Shayla Famouri raised serious allegations regarding the behavior of another employee."

"Upon learning of these allegations, the company initiated a comprehensive and in-depth investigation. The accused employee was immediately suspended; and then resigned," the spokesman said in a prepared statement. "Nevertheless, the company saw the investigation through to completion, ultimately finding that the accused employee did engage in behavior that was not in line with our standards of conduct.

"At lululemon, harassment and discrimination have no place in our community," the spokesman said. "Our culture is founded on us all positively contributing to an environment rooted in our values, which includes a commitment to working with integrity and a collective dedication to creating a respectful workplace. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure that employees come to work each day in safe environments where they are empowered to speak up."

When CNBC asked whether Lululemon had investigated Famouri's claims about inappropriate conduct among other store employees, and what, if anything was done in response to such a probe's findings, the spokesman declined to comment.

A source at the company said Lululemon was unaware of any complaints about Silva by other workers before Famouri complained.

Famouri's suit says she was hired as a sales representative in Lululemon's store in Santa Monica in November 2014.

The next year, around September 2015, Silva was transferred from the El Segundo store to Santa Monica.

The suit says that Lululemon transferred Silva because it wanted to promote him from "Educator to Key Leader, but too many of the female employees at the El Segundo store felt uncomfortable with Silva as he had been sexually inappropriate with them."

Silva was given the promotion after his transfer to the other store, the suit claims.

The suit goes on to say that Silva, in March 2016, began to repeatedly ask Famouri to work out with him as part of a competition among Lululemon stores. After eventually agreeing to do so on one occasion, Silva during a breakfast after their workout "steered the conversation to his own sex life," the suit said.

Silva, on another occasion, began making out with Famouri at his house after inviting her to work out, the suit says. After she protested at his advances he "promised Famouri that it was fine, and said that nobody cared and that everybody did it," according to the suit.

"Given his supervisory position, Famouri allowed the make-out session to continue, but felt uneasy thereafter," the suit says. "Famouri and Silva did not have intercourse at this time."

Not long afterward, the suit says, Famouri "decided to end Silva's continued attempts to advance a relationship with her."

On April 22, 2016, according to the suit, Famouri had dinner at a restaurant with Silva, where he insulted her. When she drove him back to his house, the suit says, Silva began apologizing for his behavior and asked her to talk to him inside his house.

After entering the residence, Silva "was all over" Famouri, kissing her and groping her," the suit said. The suit says that Silva then raped Famouri as she struggled unsuccessfully to get away, and after she said "no, stop."

Famouri reported the incident to her store supervisor on June 6 and was contacted by human resources two days later. She reported the attack to police on June 10.

Her suit said that during a call she then made to Silva, which was recorded by police, "Silva admitted that he heard Famouri say that she did not want to have sex before going into the house, and that he heard Famouri say no throughout and to stop."

"Eventually, Famouri asked: 'what did I need to do to get you to stop," the suit said.

"Silva's response: 'roll over,'" the suit claimed.

Famouri's lawyer said Hermosa police believed they had enough evidence to charge Silva with attacking Famouri. But the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Silva for rape.

A spokesman for the DA told CNBC that prosecutors in December 2016 declined to bring charges "due to insufficient evidence."

A report provided to CNBC by the DA's office further explained the decision.

"[Silva] and [Famouri] had prior sexual relationship. One night after going out to dinner, [Silva] attempts to have sex with her," the document said. "[Famouri] reports she told [Silva] no but he persisted and she 'just laid on the bed thinking this is going to be over with and it's easier if I just lay there.' Two months after the incident and talking with her friends, she decided to report to law enforcement. A pretext call was done but no incriminating statements were made by [Silva]. Case rejected because no corroboration to [Famouri's] account that the sex was not consensual."