- Dov Charney, the disgraced founder of American Apparel, was ordered to cease production at this new company, Los Angeles Apparel.
- The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said there were “flagrant” health violations at the company’s factory.
- The department accused Los Angeles Apparel of replacing sick workers with new employees, in violation of its shutdown order.
- More than 300 employees have contracted COVID-19, the department said, which is twice what the company itself admitted. Four workers have died.
- Charney was forced out of American Apparel following allegations of racism and sexual harassment.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Dov Charney, the disgraced founder of American Apparel, was ousted over allegations of misconduct. Now he’s accused of disregarding the health of workers at his new company, four of whom have died in the last several weeks.
Citing “flagrant violations” of public health orders, Los Angeles County announced Friday that it was shutting down the garment factory run by Los Angeles Apparel, the company that Charney started after losing control of the one he founded.
The factory, in downtown Los Angeles, was initially shut down on June 27 after three employees died of COVID-19. Another employee has since passed away, with more than 300 workers testing positive for the disease.
“Business owners and operators have a corporate, moral, and social responsibility to their employees and their families to provide a safe work environment,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said in a July 10 statement.
Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center, said it was “heartbreaking to hear of worker deaths at Los Angeles Apparel,” saying she hopes it “raises awareness of the urgent need to protect workers.”
Los Angeles’ garment industry is notorious for labor violations, as Nuncio told Business Insider back in March, when factories began shifting from clothing to the manufacture of personal protective equipment, such as masks. Workers — largely undocumented women of color — often report sub-legal wages, paid not by the hour but by the object they sew, in poorly ventilated sweatshops.
Charney, who denies allegations of harassment but admits to sleeping with his subordinates, had also shifted his factory’s production in the age of the coronavirus.
“Ideally, I don’t want one COVID case in here,” he told the website Los Angeleno in an April piece about the company’s pivot to making masks, which sell for $30 a three-pack. Charney also insisted that he and his employees would all be wearing masks.
In a statement to Business Insider, Charney argued that the spread of the coronavirus in his factory was the product of its spread across Los Angeles, particularly among the Latinx population. The county, he maintained, “provides no support with testing and no support or assistance for those that test positive” (in fact, testing is available to all for free).
He also claimed that his company “approached the Health Department about the high rates of infection amongst our employees.”
“We are determined to do anything in our power to provide continued support for our employees and are happy to make any investment necessary to keep our employees safe at work,” Charney said.
But the Department of Public Health says that hasn’t been the case thus far, and that it only learned of the infections at Los Angeles Apparel after a “concerned healthcare provider” reached out. County health inspectors then discovered “multiple violations of distancing requirements and infection control protocols,” including the use of “cardboard as a barrier between the workers.”
The company repeatedly failed to provide a list of its workers, the department said, and only after its factory was shut down on June 27 did it provide an incomplete list, a week later, of its staff, confirming 198 cases of COVID-19.
However, comparing the company’s list of employees to its own database of test results, the Department of Public Health said there are actually more than 300 cases.
According to the county, Los Angeles Apparel then violated its shutdown order and reopened “with apparently new employees.” It also attempted to block health inspectors from entering the factory, the county said, leading to the latest order that it remain closed until it can demonstrate “full compliance” with public health mandates.
In 2017, a former American Apparel employee wrote in a piece for Vox that Charney told workers to expect an “unconventional” work culture, stating that it “was widely known that Charney had sexual relationships with plenty of women [who worked for him] at the company.”
In court papers, American Apparel accused Charney of retaliating against former employees and using ethnic slurs, which he denies. He responded, in kind, with a $30 million defamation suit, which he lost.
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