Culture

American Apparel Fires Controversial CEO Accused Of Sexual Harrassment, Hires Woman Instead

CREDIT: AP/Keith Srakocic

Dov Charney, founder of American Apparel, might actually be banished from the brand for good. Or, at least, for now.

WWD is reporting that Charney was fired from American Apparel “for cause.” The cause went unspecified. If you’re thinking, “Wait, wasn’t Dov Charney fired a long time ago?” you would be sort of correct! He was suspended from his position as CEO last June amidst, as usual, allegations of sexual misconduct, but he was rehired a month later as a “strategic consultant” to the company. As we noted at the time, powerful men have a knack for evading real punishment for their crimes against women. At the time of his reinstatement, the board of directors said an independent board committee would oversee an ongoing investigation into Charney’s alleged misdeeds.

American Apparel’s official statement does not specify what wrongdoings of Charney got him booted from the company this time, only that “based on this investigation, the special committee determined that it would not be appropriate for Mr. Charney to be reinstated as CEO or an officer or employee of the Company.”

Charney’s replacement is Paula Schneider, a smart choice both for optics — not a bad idea to hire your first female chief executive when her predecessor has a notoriously horrific track record with women — and fashion cred: Schneider has helmed brands like BCBG Max Azria, Warnaco, Gores Group, and Laundry by Shelli Segal. (Scott Brubaker, who has been serving as interim CEO, will remain at that post until Schneider starts on Jan. 5, at which point he’ll stay on as a consultant.) In a statement, Schneider did not reference Charney or his well-documented history of sexually aggressive and inappropriate manner, saying instead: “American Apparel has a unique and incredible story, and it’s exciting to become part of such an iconic brand. 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.”

Though multiple female employees have accused Charney of sexual harassment, and some went on to file lawsuits, American Apparel typically took Charney’s side. When four female former employees filed a sexual harassment suit in 2011, American Apparel told The L.A. Times “that the four women were friends who were colluding to ‘shake down’ Charney and the company for money and that it had ‘voluminous evidence’ to prove that the allegations were false.”

Either the company is taking action now because this recent investigation unearthed more verifiable information about Charney and his misconduct, or this was just a business decision disguised as a gesture of concern about Charney’s reportedly atrocious behavior. Last year, American Apparel reported a net loss of $106.3 million, compared to 2012’s loss of $37.3 million. The news of Charney’s departure may already be having a positive impact on the public’s perception of the brand: following the announcement, shares in American Apparel rose by 8.6 percent to 63 cents. (Still, the stock is down 53 percent this year.)

Charney is gone for now, but like a skeevy whac-a-mole, he seems to have a way of popping back up no matter how many times you knock him down. Earlier this year, he campaigned to get his job back — which obviously did not work out — but he also declared that he’d seek severance pay of $23 to $25 million should he be denied this post. We’ll probably be hearing from Charney again, even if it’s just from the disgruntled-former-CEO sidelines.

UPDATE

This article was updated to more precisely describe that allegations against Dov Charney.

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