LOS ANGELES (CN) - Fashion mogul Dov Charney tried to strangle an employee, smeared his face with dirt, called him a "fag" and a "Jew," and fired him after he tried to file a complaint, the man claims in court.
Michael Bumblis sued Charney and American Apparel Retail in Superior Court.
Charney has been sued at least 25 times in recent years, according to the Courthouse News database. Many of the lawsuits were from employees who allege sexual harassment, sometimes in crude forms. Several shareholder class actions have been filed against Charney and his company.
In his complaint, Bumblis claims Charney "has a well known, long and unenviable reputation for aggressive, erratic, inappropriate, and harassing behavior towards others, including AA's employees. Charney's exploits and bizarre behavior have been highly publicized and were subject of extensive media coverage, including, inter alia, a June 2004 article in 'Jane' magazine, for which he infamously masturbated in front of the female reporter, an expose on ABC's 20/20 in December of 2005, and more recently in an article in the April 13, 2011 New York Times fashion & Style section, to name just a few. Charney's behavior and proclivities were, accordingly, well known to AA, its officers and directors, and are the subject of multiple prior lawsuits and sworn declarations by former employees of AA who have allege[d] that they were harassed, assaulted and discriminated against by Charney," the complaint states.
Bumblis claims he started working at American Apparel on March 26, 2009 as a retail associate, and was quickly promoted to manager of the company's Malibu location.
He claims Charney saw him working at a booth for another clothing retailer at a fashion convention in Las Vegas on Feb. 13, 2012.
On April 3 in the evening, Bumblis says, Charney called him and "launched into an expletive ridden diatribe, stating the following: 'What the fuck are you thinking?! Taking your best seller out of your store when you have negative same store sales.' Charney went on to scream: 'You should have been fucking fired months ago; I told Spring to go ahead and fire your ass but she said you had been improving. You're wasting your time with that no-name fucking company. American Apparel teaches you how to run a business like no college can ever teach. You're a fucking Jew! You should know, you are a fucking long hair wanna be Jew. Get your fucking shit together, fag. Where is your fucking creativity? Get some fucking girls in bikinis to stand on PCH and have them waive [sic] a fucking American flag. Are you a fag? Do you not want to see girls in bikinis? Are you banging that girl you were with in Vegas? What's her name?'" according to the complaint.
Bumblis says in the complaint that he told Charney that "he was not having relations with or 'banging'" the woman, J. He claims: "Charney then went on: 'I thought for sure you are banging her! You must be a fucking fag! What's her number?'
"Before he hung up, Charney instructed plaintiff to text him J's number. Thereafter, Charney began texting J suggestively."
Three and a half weeks later, on April 29, Bumblis says, Charney attacked him during an inspection of the Malibu store, which was being renovated.
"When Charney made it up to the second floor room he began railing about how dirty the room was. Plaintiff attempted to explain to Charney that the room is rarely used, but since the renovation there was no stock space on the main floor and plaintiff needed the room to keep some stock on hand and use as an office. Charney then became visibly agitated and ... then dove at plaintiff, grabbed plaintiff's throat with both hands and began to forcibly squeeze plaintiff's throat in an attempt to choke and strangle the plaintiff. Plaintiff tried to pry Charney's hands from his throat but was unable. Plaintiff began gasping for air and making a gagging sound, after which time Charney released his grip, looked at the plaintiff and said: 'You don't need all this space fucking up here. You're supposed to get the goods the next day! Your store makes 1.4 million now. If you bring it up to 1.6 million, I'll give you 10 grand! Get your fucking shit together.' Charney then proceeded to go back down stairs," the complaint states.
During the inspection, Bumblis says, Charney told him he was "disgusting" for allowing dirt to build up on the floor between the store wall and the dressing rooms, and ordered Bumblis to smear the dirt onto his own face.
"When plaintiff refused to follow such a ludicrous command, Charney proceeded to scoop up the dirt and forcibly attempt to rub the dirt on plaintiff's face. Despite plaintiff's attempts to resist, Charney managed to push his dirt-filled hand into plaintiff's face with such force as to cause plaintiff's head and neck to snap backwards. When plaintiff protested about his treatment to Charney, Charney dismissively and contemptuously replied: 'Call the fucking cops.' For the rest of the evening plaintiff kept his distance from Charney," the complaint states.
Bumblis says Charney spent the rest of his time chatting and taking pictures with the female employees. After taking pictures, Bumblis says, Charney asked if anyone there was Jewish, then turned to Bumblis, "said loudly 'You are fucking Jewish,'" and then left the store. 17
"Defendant, Charney, apparently perceived plaintiff to be Jewish and/or homosexual," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff is not homosexual.
"Plaintiff is not Jewish."
Bumblis claims Charney's "harassment, assault and battery" traumatized him, necessitating medical treatment, and prevented him from performing his duties as store manager.
He says he reported the incident to American Apparel's human resources department, who told him he would be fired if he filed a complaint against Charney.
Bumblis says he did not file an official complaint, but "AA retaliated against plaintiff by terminating his employment with AA on July 24, 2012."
Bumblis claims American Apparel allows Charney to abuse employees by forcing them to sign mandatory "At Will Employment Confidentiality Agreements," which threaten employees with $1,000,000 fines if they reveal "any detail of their employment with AA."
He says these agreements are illegal, and "bar employees from voicing grievances, filing complaints and exercising their rights to protected speech."
Bumblis seeks general, special, and punitive damages for 12 causes of action, including assault, battery, discrimination for perceived sexual orientation and religious affiliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.
He also seeks a judgment declaring the confidentiality agreements "void, illegal, and unenforceable."
Bumblis is represented by Ilan Heimanson with Heimanson & Wolf.
In March 2011, an employee sued
Charney for $25 million, claiming he forced her to perform sex acts for hours in his apartment during the months before she resigned.
Superior Court Justice Bernadette Bayne of Brooklyn ruled in March this year that the case should be settled in private arbitration, according to the New York Post.
Four other female employees sued
Charney March 2011. The lead plaintiff claimed Charney sexually assaulted her when she went to his house for an interview. The other three women said they cannot reveal what Charney did to them because he forced them to sign illegal confidentiality agreements.
In August 2010, shareholders filed a derivative complaint
, claiming American Apparel and Charney hired undocumented factory workers and engaged in questionable financial practices.