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.