Yesterday reports hit the New York City tabloids that a former employee of controversial clothing company American Apparel was suing its embattled founder and CEO Dov Charney for pressuring her into sex over an eight month period. The New York Post says the lawsuit seeks $250 million in damages, while the New York Daily News puts the figure at $260 million, but what both papers have in common, in addition to the awful allegations, are new pictures of the alleged victim, 20-year-old Irene Morales, who is not being shy about becoming the face of her case. We have a telling comment from Charney’s attorney after the jump.
Both the Post and Daily News have separate photographs of Morales in her lawyer’s office, as pointed out by Gawker, who notes that “this is a civil suit, not a criminal rape case,” meaning “the plaintiff’s name is public record.”
Though Morales’s lawyers have said they are still considering filing criminal charges, putting their client front and center makes it clear that they’re willing to first fight this case in the court of public opinion. Again, via Gawker: “If Morales and her attorney can bring enough bad PR to bear on American Apparel–a company that’s still struggling for its financial life–then the company might decide that a hefty (though not $260 million hefty, obviously) settlement is in its best interests.”
To corroborate the theory that this case will never see a trial, and certainly not criminal charges, but instead be settled and probably pretty soon, read the below response from Charney’s own attorney.
Representing American Apparel, Peter Schey doesn’t even bother to note his client’s innocence, despite charges that Morales was “held prisoner” and forced to commit sex acts, not exactly charges to be taken lightly. Instead, he writes that upon her resignation, Morales signed a contract saying she had “no pending claims against the company.” Here’s the whole statement:
We have been informed today that Irene Morales, a former employee of American Apparel who left the company without complaint and resigned with a letter of gratitude regarding her positive experience at the company, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in New York against American Apparel. Upon her resignation, Ms. Morales acknowledged in writing that she had no pending claims against the company and signed a severance agreement which included a full release of claims and an agreement to submit any future claims to confidential binding arbitration. All American Apparel’s employees are subject to the same confidential arbitration agreement signed by Ms. Morales in order to protect the privacy interests of employees and former employees, and to prevent predatory plaintiffs and their attorneys from attempting to use the media to extort the company. Such an arbitration process was initiated by the company against Ms. Morales several weeks ago. The company 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 abuse of the legal system in order to extort money from American Apparel. CEO Dov Charney’s celebrity status in the fashion industry is being publicly exploited by Ms. Morales’ attorneys despite their clients’ agreement to engage in confidential arbitration over any disputes between the parties. We are confident that Ms. Morales’ claims will be promptly referred by the court to binding arbitration where her claims and the company’s counter-claims will be resolved, we believe fully in favor of the company.
In the past, Charney told Runnin’ Scared that the media was waging a “false crusade” against him and his company and previous “sexual harassment accusations were the manifestation of a racketeering attorney…who works with journalists,” one who “feeds the media sensational stories that will grab attention.”
Apparently they’re sticking to that story this time around too.