Friday, January 18

American Apparel's Business a Little Too Casual?

A woman fired from designer sweats giant American Apparel has sued her former boss for sexual harassment. Mary Nelson claims that the head of the clothing company, known for making all of its clothes in downtown LA and paying its employees a living wage, made the workplace uncomfortable with his sexual conversation and attitude. Nothing remarkable there. So why am I tell you about it? From the ABA Journal [citing the LA Times]:

Because he worked as a fit model, and was designing an underwear line, there was a legitimate business reason for him to appear at work meetings in the office and elsewhere wearing only his underwear, contends Dov Charney, the founder and chief executive of American Apparel Inc. Furthermore, lawyers for the casual fashion giant contend in court briefs that the "sexually charged workplace" Charney created was appropriate "where employees of both genders deal with sexual conduct, speech and images as part of their jobs" because of the suggestive marketing routinely used to sell the company's garments, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Actually, that might not be too far off. If you don't know American Apparel, just look on the back page of your local, free urban bohemia magazine and you should find one of their bizarre, sexual, amateurish ads for 80's inspired sweats or gold lamé swim trunks for guys.

Even if trying on underpants was part of your job (it's gotta be better than document review), sampling the goods in an accounting meeting - especially when you're the president of the damn company - is probably not the best idea. But then, what do you expect from a guy who says the following in his own defense?
I weigh 155 pounds, I'm five-10. Am I not fit? Is there any job that is not appropriate for me to do? All the big guys did exactly what I do. Versace—they all wore their own bathing suits," he says, referring to designer Gianni Versace, who was murdered in 1998.

Umm... I have an American Apparel polo. It's really nice, but Versace may be a stretch.

This isn't Mr. Charney's first time at this particular pink-skivvied rodeo: He was sued by multiple women in 2005 for sexual harassment, claiming he asked them to hire women he could have sex with, and exposing himself to employees. Two of those cases have settled, but one is still pending, as of last year.