A former American Apparel employee is suing the company’s founder Dov Charney for $250 million, alleging that he psychologically abused her as a teenager and then forced her to have sex with him the day she turned 18.
Irene Morales, now 20, claimed in a suit filed in New York today that Charney singled her out in 2007, when she was a 17-year-old sales associate at the company’s store in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood. Morales says that Charney told her she’d be fired if she didn’t send him nude pictures of herself and recount her sexual history to him in detail. She also says he told her that in order to keep her job and to be promoted, she’d have to have sex with him on her 18th birthday.
Morales became “increasingly nervous and depressed,” the suit says. She left work in 2008 to be treated for a nervous breakdown. The suit alleges Charney responded by making increased sexual advances when she came back to work. (Her lawyer Eric Baum explained to The New York Daily News that Morales didn’t quit because, “She was young. She needed the job.”) Morales was quickly promoted to store manager.
The suit says that when Morales showed up at Charney’s apartment on her 18th birthday as ordered, Charney answered the door in his underwear and kept her there for hours, forcing her to perform a variety of sexual acts.
Afterward, Charney is said to have demanded sex in exchange for Morales’ continued employment. Charney asked Morales to come visit her in Los Angeles last summer, where according to The New York Post she was “subjected to extreme psychological abuse and torment.” Morales was offered a job there, but declined it and left the company. The suit says Charney stopped communicating with her afterward. Still, that hasn’t stopped her from seeking a quarter billion dollars in damages. (WWD and the Daily News put the figure at $260 million.)
American Apparel has responded to the suit since news of it surfaced Tuesday afternoon, saying that Morales “resigned with a letter of gratitude regarding her positive experience at the company.” She took a severance package and also signed a document agreeing to take up any outstanding issues with the company in confidential binding arbitration. Because she didn’t, the company says it will file a formal complaint against Morales’ lawyers, who they believe are engaged in an illegal extortion conspiracy. It’s worth noting that Charney has been accused of sexual harassment on a number of occasions, but none of those cases have ever been proven in court.
Of course even without allegations of sexual abuse, American Apparel would still be marred with falling stock prices and advertising that looks like it belongs in lewd magazines. Which leaves us with this question: How is Dov Charney still in business?
American Apparel founder turned teen staffer into sex slave on 18th birthday [The New York Post]
Dov Charney accused of forcing teen employee into sex act in $260M suit [The New York Daily News]
Dov Charney Hit With Sex Suit [WWD]
American Apparel Responds to $250 Million Sexual Assault Suit [Racked]