The chief executive officer of Away luggage company Steph Korey apologized after a damning report revealed her mistreatment of former staff and cultivation of a toxic work environment.
On Thursday, The Verge published an article speaking to former employees of the popular suitcase company. The piece featured Korey’s harsh messages to workers on Slack ― a chat service for workplaces ― including one that called an employee “brain dead,” and another telling a team they couldn’t take more paid time off, calling it a “career development opportunity.”
“I can imagine how people felt reading those messages from the past because I was appalled reading them myself,” Korey said in a statement to reporters Friday. “I am sincerely sorry for what I said and how I said it. It was wrong, plain and simple.”
HuffPost reached out to Away for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Korey later posted a similar, albeit longer statement on her Twitter, expanding on ways the company is working to improve its work environment:
Away was founded in 2015 and quickly grew popular for its carry-on suitcases, priced over $200, which include a phone charger pack and other features.
Former employees who spoke to The Verge described a toxic work environment, in which employees were expected to work long hours and restrict their time off, even during holidays.
The article also included allegations that Korey, who is white, fired several workers, including at least one woman of color, after accusing them of posting “discriminatory” and “racist” chats in a private Slack channel of largely LGBTQ and nonwhite staffers. (Korey told Verge she did not use the term “racist.”)
After The Verge article published, Korey reportedly sent a message to current employees in Slack, saying the piece portrayed her in a “negative light” and had “several factual errors,” but acknowledged that there are “some areas we can improve on.”
In her statement to media Friday, Korey said that over the last year the company had “invested in creating a culture that allows our people to thrive,” listing out executive coaching for senior staff, diversity and inclusion training for all staffers and hiring of more workers to lighten workloads.
Later on Friday, a leaked Slack message from managers at the company showed them barring staffers from sharing the critical Verge article on social media: “Please do not share the article,” managers told direct reports, per The Verge. “Please do not fave/like/comment or interact with any commentary (negative or positive) through either your personal or professional accounts.”
This article has been updated with further statements from Korey.