American Apparel founder sued for $250m for abusing teenage worker

Last Updated: Mar 09, 2011, 11:38 AM IST

London: The founder of American Apparel has been sued for 250 million dollars for allegedly using a teenage employee as a sex slave, just months after she returned to work after a nervous breakdown.

Dov Charney, 42, has been accused of harassing Irene Morales, 20, since 2007 when she was a high school sales associate.

He is said to have forced her to send him nude pictures and texts before carrying out a sex act on her on her 18th birthday.

Her lawyer Eric Baum revealed that she was left "emotionally traumatized" by her months-long ordeal.

The lawsuit states that Charney demanded the employee come to his Manhattan home on her birthday, answered the door in his underwear, dragged her inside and forced her to her knees so she could pleasure him.

Then he allegedly dragged her to the bedroom, threw her on the bed, got on top of her and forced her to perform another sex act, nearly suffocating her in the process.

It also said she was held prisoner in the apartment for several hours during which time he forced her to perform additional sexual acts.

The lawsuit, which was filed at Brooklyn Supreme Court, said that Charney told the girl when she started working at the store at 17 that she would be fired if she did not detail her sexual history, engage in "increasingly explicit" sexual functions and send him sexually explicit pictures.

The whole ordeal caused Morales to become increasingly nervous and depressed, resulting in her being admitted to hospital after an "emotional breakdown".

Upon telling Charney of this breakdown, he used it to increase the pressure, forcing her to work longer hours and perform personal tasks without extra pay.

The lawsuit, against Charney, American Apparel and members of the company``s board of directors, also alleges that she was induced to visit Charney in Los Angeles last summer where she was "subjected to extreme psychological abuse and torment".

Finally, "completely repulsed and again on the verge of a breakdown", the girl quit the company and Charney`s demands ceased as soon as he lost the leverage of her employment.

The forced sex lasted eight months until Morales resigned under pressure, her lawyer Eric Baum told the New York Daily News.

"She was promised job advancement. She was young. She needed the job," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.

Morales, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, said she started as a salesperson at American Apparel``s Chelsea location and was quickly promoted to store manager.

"I believed I would work in a professional environment where promotions and work advancement would be based on merit and hard work," she told the New York Daily News.

"I was extremely devastated to find out that was not the case," she added.

Baum said she did not deliberately go to authorities because of trauma and shame, but she may press criminal charges in the future.

Peter Schey, an American Apparel lawyer, said that Morales "resigned with a letter of gratitude regarding her positive experience at the company".

He added that she signed an agreement not to sue but to settle any claims through a binding arbitrator.

The case, Schey said, "will be resolved, we believe, fully in favour of the company".

ANI