The owner of a Charlotte yoga studio who responded to allegations of sexual harassment from former female employees by posting a selfie of himself clad only in a towel says he is temporarily stepping away from his business.
Kyle Conti, owner of Charlotte Yoga as well as one of its instructors, made the announcement Wednesday morning in a letter to the "Charlotte Yoga Family," according to a copy of the announcement acquired by the Observer.
While Conti wrote that "I vehemently deny" allegations by two fired staff members that he groped and verbally harassed female employees and clients, he said he did not want to be "a distraction to Charlotte Yoga and its wonderful members and staff."
"I am going to take some time away from the daily business at the studios," Conti wrote.
The statement makes no mention of the photos Conti posted on social media last week.
Two of Conti's former employees have filed complaints against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that their former boss created "a sexually hostile work environment" at Charlotte Yoga.
The accusers say they were fired within a week of each other after confronting Conti about his behavior, their complaints said. According to documents, a third female employee quit outright.
The Observer does not identify women who say they have been victims of sexual harassment or assault.
Conti, according to the allegations, frequently made lurid public comments about his customers and employees while bragging that he'd slept with many of them. The accusers also say Conti made a habit of inappropriately touching attractive women who took his classes.
On the morning of a meeting at the EEOC office in Charlotte last week, Conti posted a series of Instagram selfies, including one taken in his bathroom in which he is wearing only a towel.
It included this caption: "When your integrity is questioned & you get the opportunity today to look your accuser in the eyes you wake up at 4 am so excited for that moment ..."
During the meeting that day, the photos were forwarded to one of Conti's accusers who was at the meeting. When Meg Maloney, the Charlotte attorney who is representing the former employees, saw them, she said she and her clients immediately walked out.
"It was too disturbing to continue after that. I needed two bourbons that night," she told the Observer the next day.
Conti's attorney, John Brickley of Charlotte, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
In his letter, Conti wrote that despite the allegation against him, he remains committed "to providing a safe and compassionate space for students, teachers and staff."
"My intention," he wrote, "is to remain steadfast in the commitment to yoga and to the well being of Charlotte Yoga's students, teachers and staff."
Maloney, however, continued to criticize Conti on Wednesday after reading his statement, saying "Actions, not platitudes matter."
"The refusal to acknowledge the realities of what he has done and how it makes others feel is offensive," she said in an email. "The refusal to apologize, to be open to learning, and to get help and training is consistent with his overall pattern of behavior and his attitude towards others."
She also called on the yoga community to acknowledge "its own failings, while at the same time supporting and embracing the victims. Sexual harassment exists in every industry – even those that have a focus on discipline, mindfulness, health and wellness."