American Apparel Now Explicitly Bans Managers From Hitting On Workers


Less than a month after firing its controversial chief executive, American Apparel unveiled a revamped code of ethics on Tuesday, packed with policies to combat sexual harassment and prevent relationships between supervisors and subordinates.

The 6,200-word document is more than four times as long as the prior code, according to Bloomberg News. It details policies to curb discrimination and abuse in the workplace, including the banning of discriminatory slurs and jokes.

“No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate, regardless of whether the subordinate reports to the management employee, either directly or indirectly,” the revised code of conduct states. Any form of “abusive conduct” will not be tolerated, it says.

Sexual harassment has been a delicate issue for American Apparel in recent months, weighing on the retailer’s reputation.

In December, the company fired chief executive and founder Dov Charney, following a six-month battle between the spurned executive and the board of directors. In a termination letter, the board accused him of sexual harassment and misusing corporate funds -- allegations that Charney and his lawyers have denied. Charney has faced a string of sexual harassment lawsuits since founding the company 25 years ago.

The sexual harassment and romantic relationships sections of American Apparel’s overhauled code of ethics are common at most companies, according to Holly Culhane, president and CEO of California-based human resources consulting firm PAS Associates. After reviewing those sections of the document, Culhane told The Huffington Post that the measures are “quite prudent,” and their comprehensiveness is appropriate for an organization as large as American Apparel.

But a document can only do so much, said Culhane. In the end, mitigating workplace harassment comes down to the company’s culture and its employees. It all starts with senior management, she said.

“All culture begins at the top,” said Culhane. “If there are changes happening, it can start there and certainly work its way to all levels of the organization.”

Following Charney’s ouster, veteran retail executive Paula Schneider was named American Apparel’s first female CEO. She said in a statement in December: “My goal is to make American Apparel a better company, while staying true to its core values of quality and creativity and preserving its sweatshop-free, Made in USA manufacturing philosophy.”

American Apparel announced its intent to revise its code of ethics in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December. At the time, the company said the changes were meant to “clarify, update or enhance the description of the standards of conduct that are expected of all directors, officers and employees of the Company and its subsidiaries.”

American Apparel declined to provide additional comment.

This article has been updated to reflect that American Apparel declined to comment.

Before You Go

Its CEO Has Been Repeatedly Accused Of Sexual Harassment
American Apparel CEO Dov Charney has faced multiple accusations of unwanted sexual conduct, including accusations that he forced an employee to perform oral sex and kept one employee as a sex slave. According to American Apparel spokesman Peter Schey, Charney is currently involved with four sexual harassment suits that the company believes "have no merit." Charney told CNBC that such lawsuits are "a testimony to my success."
It Was Sued For Allegedly Firing A Cancer Patient
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American Apparel was sued in 2010 for allegedly terminating an employee who was undergoing cancer treatment, CBS Los Angeles reports. The company settled the lawsuit for $60,000 in 2011, according to Daily News. Spokesman Peter Schey told HuffPost that American Apparel "agreed to intensify its training about the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act" following the the settlement, and now "has a policy that goes above and beyond what the law requires with regards to accommodating people with disabilities."
Its Employees Are Allegedly Hired And Fired Based On How Hot They Are
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American Apparel hires workers only after taking a full-body photograph of them and has faced accusations that it only hires the best looking candidates, Gawker reports. Likewise, CEO Dov Charney reportedly personally went through photos of store employees and requested that any "ugly people" be let go, according to one store manager. For its part, American Apparel says its policy is to hire workers who are knowledgable about its products.
A Factory Worker Died On The Job
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In 2011, garment worker Tuan Phan was killed by a circular knitting machine at one of American Apparel's factories. Calling the incident a "freak accident," American Apparel spokesman Peter Schey said "the company immediately took steps to avoid this type of terrible accident ever happening again," adding it is "fully committed to worker health and safety."
Its Been Accused Of Racism
American Apparel paid out over $300,000 in damages after a worker sued for being called "n****r" by his superior repeatedly, Gawker reports. The company has also been accused of profiling customers, running racist ads and making racially insensitive products. "Under no circumstances does the company think racial slurs are appropriate," Peter Schey told HuffPost.
Its Ads Get Banned... A Lot
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American Apparel's racy ads have been banned repeatedly for showing nudity, supposedly being exploitative and sexualizing child models.
It Almost Went Bankrupt
American Apparel has been flirting with bankruptcy since 2010, coming especially close in the spring of 2011 after losing around $86 million. Despite calls for the company to outsource production due to the financial strife, it remained committed to "domestic production, fair wages [and] positive working conditions," according to American Apparel's Peter Schey. An $80 million credit infusion from billionaire George Soros in 2012, however, appears to have put the clothing company on more solid financial footing.
Its CEO Allegedly Throws Dirt At People
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A 2012 lawsuit brought by former employee Michael Bumblis accused CEO Dov Charney of throwing dirt at a store manager and calling him a "fag" and a "wanna be Jew," The Huffington Post reports. "Dov Charney and witnesses deny that Charney ever assaulted or rubbed dirt in Mr. Bumblis's face," spokesman Peter Schey told HuffPost. "Mr. Bumblis sued only after being terminated for cause (after numerous warnings about his conduct before and after the alleged dirt-throwing incident)."
It Apparently Can't Take A Joke
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In 2011, America Apparel ran a contest called "The Next Big Thing," which sought a plus-size model for its new larger line of clothing. Nancy Upton's collection of ironic photos for the contest was the popular winner but American Apparel chose not to give her the top prize because of her "attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge," a spokesperson wrote at the time.
It Unknowingly Hired Unauthorized Workers
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American Apparel was forced to fire 1,800 employees after a federal audit unveiled irregularities in the documents immigrant workers provided American Apparel in order to get hired, The New York Times reports. "We interviewed every worker one by one to ensure that we were absolutely certain that we didn't terminate anyone who had a right to be here," American Apparel's Peter Schey told HuffPost.

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