LuLaRoe seek to force mommy blogger to disclose whistleblower sources
LuLaRoe are a fashion-based MLM company that have been around since 2012.
Christina Hinks, a former LuLaRoe affiliate, is a “mommy blogger” who goes by the alias MommyGyver.
MommyGyver is also a website, on which Hinks frequently blogs about LuLaRoe.
Much like what we publish here on BehindMLM from time to time, MommyGyver’s articles on LuLaRoe are of the whistleblower variety.
As I write this a Google search for “lularoe” on MommyGyver returns two hundred and thirty-two hits, most of which are accounts from former affiliates and staff (either directly or as source-material).
Hinks (right) claims since she started blogging about LuLaRoe she’s been contacted by “thousands”of past and present affiliates
The latest article on MommyGyver, dated September 23rd, details the story of Phil.
Phil is purportedly a former LuLaRoe customer care employee who claims he was fired for caring too much.
Phil explained to me that he had really loved his job. So much so, that he justified making less than half of his previous hourly rate with Wells Fargo as- “Ok, because I felt fulfilled and better as a person.”
Phil represents the pay was not good at all, but the reward for helping the scores of women that called in for answers was well worth it to him.
Phil reports that he started to notice a change in the caliber of people LuLaRoe was hiring. They went from truly caring individuals to young and cocky people that he often heard bragging about the way they treated people that called in.
He said they hire uncaring people. “If you’re a person that doesn’t care about people, they like you. Before, it was different. Now, it’s just all greed.”
“These kids will just hang up on you. Tell them (callers) that ‘it is what it is’, is there anyone higher than you I can speak to? No. Then just hang up on them.”
Yesterday was just like any other day- until his friend and colleague who he had taken under his wing was terminated for reporting having anxiety from working in the same call center.
He remembers that- “When he was hired, Jordan Brady told me to help him out. He was a ‘blue’, please take care of him, Phil.” He told me. What Phil didn’t know was 30 minutes later, he’d be following his friend out the doors forever.
Martha called him into the office, and that’s when he saw the envelope. After a year and six months of what he felt was LuLaRoe taking precedent in his life- the culture becoming his culture- he was handed an envelope and given the explanation that- “This isn’t the right fit for you.”
Another alleges deals made with LuLaRoe warehouse staff made at the expense of affiliates, who were unable to fill customer orders due to product shortages. Other articles cover the use of copyrighted works on LuLaRoe leggings without permission.
LuLaRoe see the claims made in these articles like these as “confidential and proprietary business information”.
The company doesn’t want this information in the public sphere, and through legal means seeks to put an end to it.
On September 20th LuLaRoe filed a petition in McHenry County Court in Illinois.
Hinks was woken up by a process-server at 6am on September 22nd. After police were called to the scene the server loitered around outside before eventually leaving the petition Hinks’ doorstep.
LuLaRoe’s 100 page petition seeks the names of Hinks sources. According to Holly Baird, a PR representative for LaLaRoe, the company has no intention of suing Hinks.
They “may” however sue any sources Hinks discloses. And therein lies the chilling effect.
Most, if not all of the LuLaRoe content on MommyGyver is sourced from third-parties.
LuLaRoe could sue Hinks but it’d be a lost cause (unless they simply wanted to harass).
Instead LuLaRoe are going after Hinks’ sources, which will have the same end-result: no more articles about LuLaRoe appearing on MommyGyver.
Even if they don’t sue anyone, the filing of a petition and “we know who you are” that may result from it will likely have the same desired effect.
Whistleblowers are rarely in a financial position to defend their claims in court, hence the secretive disclosure to begin with.
Interestingly, Hinks has been in contact with LuLaRoe’s lawyers for some time now.
In an open letter to LuLaRoe published on May 11th, Hinks discloses she’d received an email from LuLaRoe’s attorney “that evening”. The email was followed up by a phonecall.
The open letter serves as Hinks’ response, in which she writes;
First and foremost, I am not your issue. I am not your enemy- never was, never will be.
I know it may seem like that because I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about you a lot of the time. I want you to know there are reasons for that.
Let me start by discussing how I come about the information in my blogs and my statements about this company.
1. I get hundreds of messages a day. It happens. A lot of it is redundant- the same screen shots, links, messages, over and over.
2. I never collected anything on my own. I never needed to. As a journalist, I am protected from liability because the information is GIVEN to me.
How a source comes by that information, I do not know- nor is it my duty to ask that of them.
3. My sources are confidential. I have offered to provide redacted information to your attorneys to prove outside source, but protect those informing.
4. I am not participating in any sort of slander or defamation or libel. I report on information I am provided. I source and fact check.
There is a lot that I do not report on because- it’s just a lot. I don’t care about Katie’s house or car. I don’t care about what shoes you wear, DeAnne.
What I care about are the consultants.
5. The videos I get are given to me. I have not recorded or published any video of my own other than a video of myself speaking on the topic.
6. Internal documents are provided to me- outside of my own contract that is not protected by any non-disclosure.
From the tone of Hinks’ letter, it very much sounds like the lawyer email was of the “cease and desist” variety. That was back in May so presumably Hinks has been on LuLaRoe’s radar for some time.
Illinois Shield Law applies to reporters
regularly engaged in the business of collecting, writing or editing news for publication through a news medium on a full‑time or part‑time basis
Blogs should be covered as an “electronic medium”, however I don’t think this has been tested in an Illinois court.
A reporter can be forced to reveal their source(s), but only if
“all other available sources of information have been exhausted” and that “disclosure of the information sought is essential to the protection of the public interest involved.”
That clearly isn’t the case here, given what Hinks reports on is often found elsewhere on the internet in the public domain.
As to public interest, LuLaRoe’s own petition acknowledges it was filed
to protect and safeguard … its tens of thousands of Fashion Retailers who rely on LLR’s goodwill and reputation to sell LLR products to retail customers.
LuLaRoe affiliates have a vested financial interest in the company’s reputation. The public? Not so much.
If anything, it’d be in the public interest for what Hinks has published to be in the public domain.
As I understand it a major ongoing point of contention fueling much of the backlash against LuLaRoe was a change to their affiliate buy-back policy.
A buy-back policy in MLM is when a company agrees to buy back unsold inventory from affiliates at a set price.
In layman’s terms it’s a policy to mitigate affiliate losses if they stock up on product they can’t sell.
After accepting refund claims through this buy-back policy months ago, thousands of LuLaRoe affiliates have yet to be paid.
In response to the latest petition, Hinks claims it was filed because LuLaRoe ‘doesn’t like whistleblowers exposing corruption in the company.‘
For now, whistleblowers who shared their LuLaRoe stories and experiences with Hinks can rest easy.
Framing LuLaRoe as “corporate bullies”, Hinks doesn’t explicitly go into her planned defense but does state;
I intend to see them in court and stand my ground.
You all chose to speak to me. You felt safe with me. I shared your stories, and I have not broken your trust. I’m not starting now.
I promise you I will not go anywhere until a court tells me I have to- or until this company changes its ways.
At the end of the day, all any of us wanted was for them to just do right by the working folks that made them billionaires.
The petition isn’t showing up on Pacer so I currently don’t have a way of tracking the case.
With the media attention the petition has garnered however and Hinks’ platform on Mommygyver, I’m sure any significant developments will be made public.