Troubled Waters At the Salon Spa
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
For a decade, Andre Chreky's boutique has been atop the particular trade that is the high-end hair salon industry in the nation's capital.
The charismatic native of Morocco has been stylist to Laura Bush (as well as the twins). Washingtonian magazine noted that Chreky was "far and away Washington's most popular stylist," naming the salon as tops in the city as early as 1998. This year, the salon is still ranked as the magazine's choice for "the busy executive."
Washington isn't quite Gotham, with Sally Hershberger and the $600 haircut, or Hollywood, where the late Jay Sebring's hairdresser fame was translated into the 1975 film "Shampoo." But there is no doubt that Chreky's five-story "Tuscan retreat" townhouse at the power intersection of 16th and K has been the place where Washington women who care for the finer points of their appearance have often preferred to book an appointment.
Which makes the sexual harassment lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in the past nine months by two former stylists against the 52-year-old Chreky all the more stunning. Chreky denies the allegations in his court responses, saying these are bitter ex-employees attempting to wreck his reputation. One of them, he says, is retaliating for a lawsuit he previously filed against her.
These are not just allegations of a wayward touch or a leering remark, but of graphically detailed physical attacks, backroom groping and years of sexual crudities and financial reprisals when those advances were rejected. They are supported by 16 sworn affidavits gathered by the plaintiffs from former employees, nine of whom say they witnessed Chreky inappropriately touch plaintiffs Ronnie Barrett or Jennifer Thong. Three witnesses say they, too, were sexually approached or inappropriately touched by Chreky.
Thong's lawsuit alleges a 2005 incident in Chreky's office:
"Mr. Chreky got up and slammed the door, pushed her over and got on top of her. Plaintiff began to cry and yelled for him to let her go. He grabbed her skirt, tore it . . . Mr. Chreky unzipped his pants" and attempted to force intercourse.
In a separate 2005 incident, Thong's suit says that Chreky accosted her in the salon's kitchen and ripped her underwear off with such force that it bruised her. In 2004, he gave her a ride home, the lawsuit says, but stopped the car and "rolled on top of her. Mr. Chreky lifted her skirt, grabbed her underwear, pulled it to the side . . . and grabbed her genitals."
The lawsuit by former stylist Barrett, a longtime employee of Chreky's, recounts a February 2004 incident that she says took place in his fifth-floor office: "Mr. Chreky jumped up and grabbed her below the neck and shoulder blades and forcefully shoved her back into the chair" and demanded oral sex.
Chreky says in court papers that those events never happened.
Maurice Clarke, in a sworn affidavit, described his 10 years at the salon, most of them as a manager:
"Approximately twenty different female employees on at least sixty different occasions came to me to complain about Andre's inappropriate sexual advances and sexual comments to them, and requested my assistance in some way. . . . I believe that Andre is a sexual predator with his employees, particularly those who are originally from Third World countries, because of the power he can exert over them based on their immigration status and lack of knowledge of their rights."