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Surge Desk

Dov Charney: 5 Facts About the American Apparel Founder Facing a $260 Million Sex Lawsuit

Mar 8, 2011 – 6:37 PM
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Mary Phillips-Sandy Contributor

Dov Charney, founder of the Los Angeles-based clothing company American Apparel, has been hit with a $260 million lawsuit by a former employee who claims he forced her into having sex.

The New York Daily News reports that the suit, filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court, alleges that for eight months in 2008 Charney forced Irene Morales, then 18 years old, to perform various sex acts against her will. Morales' suit claims that on one occasion she was "held prisoner" in Charney's Manhattan apartment for several hours.

Morales eventually left her job with the company. In the suit, she says she suffered "serious psychiatric injuries" from Charney's alleged actions.

In a statement released to Gawker, American Apparel said it "intends to file a formal complaint with the NY state bar seeking disciplinary action against Ms. Morales' lawyers who we believe are engaged in an illegal conspiracy to extort money from American Apparel."

The company has been struggling financially, relying on an $80 million loan to avoid bankruptcy.

So who is Dov Charney? Surge Desk does some digging.

1. He's Canadian
According to Charney's official bio, he was born in Montreal to creative parents (his father is an architect, his mother is an artist).

2. He saw the business potential of T-shirts at an early age
Charney's parents sent him to Connecticut for a year of pre-college study at the prestigious Choate Rosemary Hall boarding school. That's when he developed an interest in American T-shirts, which he saw as "iconic, unique and in most ways better than the T-shirts we had access to in Canada." Charney began bringing bulk packs of T-shirts back to Montreal; he launched American Apparel shortly thereafter, from his dorm room at Tufts University. After evolving from T-shirt importer to manufacturer, in 1997 he relocated to Los Angeles, establishing AA's headquarters there.

3. He's a strange interview
In a 2004 Jane magazine profile, writer Claudine Ko described watching Charney and a female employee "put on a show," implying that said "show" involved sexual activity. Later, during an interview, Charney began masturbating in front of Ko (after asking permission). In a follow-up story, Ko replied to critics who questioned her decision to stay put and take notes: "I'd like to know what kind of reporter would walk out on a story like this," she wrote.

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4. He's been accused of employee mistreatment before
Three employees filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Charney in 2005. Additional charges came in 2008, claiming (among other things) wrongful termination and that Charney conducted meetings in the nude. These and other claims against Charney have never been proved in court, and he has denied the allegations.

5. He was sued by Woody Allen
Not for sexual impropriety, don't worry. In May 2007 American Apparel took a break from billboards featuring scantily clad girls to put up billboards featuring a picture of Allen in "Annie Hall" dressed as a Hasidic Jew. Allen sued, claiming his image was used without permission. Charney settled the suit with a $5 million payment.


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