Filigranes bookstore employees lodge joint harassment complaint

Filigranes bookstore employees lodge joint harassment complaint
Credit: Belga

48 employees have filed a collective harassment complaint with the Securex social insurance fund against the Filigranes bookstore in Brussels, according to Belgian publication BX1.

The workers alleged that there is a culture of harassment and poor management at the company. They also directly accuse the company founder, Marc Filipson, of sexual and psychological harassment.

More than half of the 95 full-time Filigranes employees filed a complaint through the Securex psychosocial unit, charged with protecting the well-being of employees in the workplace.

Unpaid overtime, humiliation, burnout

In the complaint, employees take issue with unpaid overtime, last-minute schedule changes, repeated contact outside of working hours, surveillance, and understaffing.

Moreover, staff allege that five employees have resigned due to burnout in the last six months, aggravated by angry outbursts, intimidation, sexual harassment, and remarks on the physical appearance of employees made by Mr. Filipson.

According to a testimony posted by one former employee, staff were “insulted, humiliated in front of customers,” in response to criticism of organisational policies at the bookstore.

Filipson, who established the company in 1982, was described as a “manipulator who knows very well how to make people crack.”

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In a letter, the Filigranes board of directors said that the company will look into the issue of overtime. The company defended its right to not allow for holidays in November and December. According to the letter, the company “fails to understand the grievances of workers on this point, who do not seem to understand the importance of their presence within the department.”

According to the testimony of former employees, staff have been unable to unionise due to the high employee turnover and fear of reprisal.

Harassment

One testimony says that Filipson cornered an employee and shouted at them for 20 minutes while they broke down in tears. The employee in question believed that they were going to be physically attacked.

Another states that Filipson would “often come to the counter and put his hand on the breasts of the cashiers.” A former male employee states that Filipson had sexually harassed him and attempted to solicit him for sex.

The company's administrative council has stood behind Filipson, claiming that his “out of the ordinary personality” is what drove the company to success.

“He is clearly a demanding boss but his remarks are very often justified,” the company stated in response to the allegations. Filipson himself denied all allegations of harassment.


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