November 5, 2019 Press Releases, Themis Project

Watchdog Calls on Estée Lauder to Stop Employee from Using Company Name to Promote Anti-choice Group Obria

Obria’s Board Chair Inappropriately Used Her Estée Lauder Affiliation to Legitimize Org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 5, 2019

Contact: Bryan Dewan, bdewan@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, sent letters to Estée Lauder informing the company of an employee’s inappropriate use of the company’s name in her role as the board chair of Obria Medical Clinics of Southern California (Obria), an anti-choice religious ministry masquerading as a healthcare group, and requesting that the company discipline the employee accordingly. The employee, Vicki Smith, appears to have violated Estée Lauder’s employee handbook by publishing the company’s affiliation on Obria’s website and by using her Estée Lauder email account to communicate with government officials about Obria business.

Click here to read the three letters addressed to Estée Lauder.

CfA Counsel Alice Huling said, “Obria appears to be piggybacking on Estée Lauder’s good name to lend credibility to the controversial organization, which opposes all forms of contraception. Estée Lauder should enforce its employee handbook and demand Obria and Ms. Smith cease using the Estée Lauder name in its publications and communications.”

Obria, as a part of its affiliated Obria Group, is a network of approximately 35 crises pregnancy centers based in southern California that does not offer contraception, including condoms, beyond fertility awareness. Obria also opposes abortion without exception. Obria is led by Kathleen Eaton Bravo, a vocal proponent of the racially charged “replacement” theory, which posits that contraception and abortion are contributing to the “replacement” of white, Christian populations by immigrants of different faiths and ethnicities.

Vicki Smith appears to work for Estée Lauder as a La Mer regional training director. Additionally, Ms. Smith is also an Obria board member and is listed on Obria’s “About Us” webpage as “Vicki Smith | Estée Lauder | Former Education Director | Board Chair.” On April 4, 2019, Ms. Smith, along with other Obria officials, used her Estée Lauder email address to schedule a conference call with an official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding Obria’s Title X grant. Title X is a government program that is designed to promote low income women’s access to birth control.

Estée Lauder’s employee handbook encourages its employees to participate in community activities, but it states that these endeavors “should not… imply Company sponsorship or support.” The handbook states that employees should not use company stationery or any other sign of support  “without the express written approval of the Company.” The handbook also states that the charitable involvement “should not . . . adversely affect the reputation of the Company, including the image of the Lauder family, which is a valuable asset of the Company.”

CfA submitted its concerns in three separate letters: one addressed to Michael O’Hare, Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources at Estée Lauder, another addressed to The Estée Lauder Companies, and another sent via AlertLine, an online reporting portal.

Ms. Huling continued, “Estée Lauder has been a forceful advocate for women, and it should not allow its brand to be tarnished by an association with a group that undermines women’s healthcare.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.

Letter to Michael O’Hare, Executive Vice President, Global Human Resources at Estée Lauder

Letter to The Estée Lauder Companies

Letter Sent Via Alertline