H&M manager forced employees to strip

Swedish retailing giant H&M is under fire after a manager at one of clothier’s German stores forced female employees to partially remove their clothes when leaving work for the evening.

The women were asked to unbutton their shirts so the manager could ensure they were only wearing one bra following following suspicions that the employees may have been stealing bras from the store.

“It did indeed occur at one of our affiliates in Munich,” said H&M spokesperson Hendrik Alpen to the Bild newspaper, but added that the company’s leadership didn’t accept the practice and immediately took action against the manager in question.

The incident first came to light in the latest edition of the magazine Stern in a piece claiming that the Swedish fashion giant systematically opposes all union labour.

Only 80 of H&M’s 325 German stories have any form of organized labour groups, and those who want to represent their colleagues must often go to court to fight for their right to do so.

For example, employee representatives have gone without pay for participating in union meetings and threatening with removal if it happened again.

Stern describes one case in which a union representative at a store in the Kröpcke district of Hannover went to the labour court to gain internet access to union-related work. And despite that H&M lost the case, the company allowed another case involving a second Hannover store also go to court.

The cases demonstrate those active in labour organizing efforts from carrying out their work, said lawyer Thomas Berger to Stern.

The company defended itself in Stern by saying that representatives “obviously” are allowed to use the telephone, fax machine, and email, but refused to comment on the specific cases.

H&M admits that it “can happen that our clear values and guidelines are not realized in the right way or that personal misunderstandings can occur”.