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Ex-workers say American Apparel posted their nude photos online

By Reuters
Wednesday, April 27, 2011 20:12 EDT
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NEW YORK – A woman who accused American Apparel Inc chief executive Dov Charney of keeping her as a teenage sex slave is now suing him and his clothing retailer for defamation.

In the complaint, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court, the former American Apparel saleswoman and two other women say Charney posted nude pictures of them on the Internet.

American Apparel did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Charney’s lawyer, Peter Schey, was not immediately available for comment either.

The former saleswoman, Irene Morales, filed her original lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court on March 4, in which she accused Charney of forcing her to perform sexual acts in his Manhattan apartment under the threat of losing her job.

Morales also sued American Apparel and its directors, saying they failed to prevent Charney from acting as a “sexual predator.”

Several other women, including Alyssa Ferguson and Tesa Lubans-Dehaven, filed a related lawsuit in California state court later in March.

According to the latest lawsuit, blogs that appeared to be created and posted by Morales, Ferguson and Lubans-Dehaven surfaced on the Internet. According to the complaint, the blogs contained suggestive photographs of the women, some of them nude. The women were forced to pose for the pictures during company photo shoots, according to the suit, which also named company photographer Kyung Chung.

In one blog post attributed to Ferguson, the lawsuit said, a photo caption read, “Partying in NY with Tesa Lubans after filing our lawsuit.” The posts also made it appear as if the women were admitting that their lawsuits against Charney and American Apparel were an “extortion” scheme “brewed up with some third-rate lawyer from Jersey,” the lawsuit said.

The women claimed severe emotional distress from the suggestion they filed bogus sexual harassment and assault claims to extort money. They also accused the company of releasing their pictures to media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and the New York Post, without their permission.

Along with defamation and invasion of privacy, the suit accuses Charney and the company of violating a California criminal law that makes it illegal to impersonate another person on the Internet to inflict harm or commit fraud.

At a court hearing last month in the New York case, a lawyer for Charney and the company said it was Morales, now 20, who chased the company founder. American Apparel has argued the harassment cases should be heard by an arbitrator. Arbitration could keep case details from becoming public and limit potential damages.

(This story was corrected in paragraph nine to reference New York Post instead of New York Times)

(Reporting by Terry Baynes of Reuters Legal; Editing by Jerry Norton)

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