The founder and CEO of American Apparel, Dov Charney, is being sued for $260 million by a former employee who alleges that he forced her to have sex with him over a period of eight months until the woman, Irene Morales, resigned under pressure. Morales also says that she is considering pressing criminal charges, and that she did not come forward earlier because of trauma and shame.
Sexual harassment suits have been filed against Charney disturbingly often in the past, but none have been proven in court. This one is, according to the NY Daily News, “by far the most damning.” It alleges that the sexual harassment began while Morales was 17, and became physical when she turned 18.
The details of the case are extremely distressing. According to Morales, on her 18th birthday, Charney invited her to his apartment and forced her to perform oral sex on him repeatedly. She was then, according to the suit, “held prisoner in the apartment for several hours and forced to perform additional sexual acts.”
The assaults continued for eight months, until Morales finally quit. This was after she had experienced a nervous breakdown, which did not deter Charney. When asked why she didn’t quit earlier, her lawyer explained, “She was promised job advancement. She was young. She needed the job.”
American Apparel has issued a statement about the lawsuit, claiming that Morales and her lawyers are “engaged in an illegal conspiracy to extort money from American Apparel.”
Anyone who has been to the American Apparel website, or seen their ads, knows how little regard the company seems to have for women’s bodies except as sexualized props to sell their products. The fact that Dov Charney is infamously accused of sexual harassment makes it hard to believe that this lawsuit is the result of a conspiracy against him, although the results of the case are not yet available.
In any case, if what Morales is alleging is true, Charney probably committed similar offenses against other models and employees, and we can only hope that her lawsuit – and any subsequent criminal charges – are successful.
Photo from Flickr.