American Apparel: We Did Nothing Wrong But We're Paying $1 mil to End Worker Death Case

This complex includes the newest of two plants in Garden Grove where American Apparel has made clothing.
This complex includes the newest of two plants in Garden Grove where American Apparel has made clothing.
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"American Apparel has been and continues to be absolutely committed to providing its employees with a safe work place and fair wages in a sweat-shop free environment." -Los Angeles-based lawyer Peter A. Schey, on behalf of American Apparel, which agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle a civil suit brought against the company by the Orange County District Attorney's office due to a worker in Garden Grove being mangled and killed by an industrial knitting machine.

American Apparel Expands Orange County Manufacturing Presence

Schey also said "the company does not believe it violated any laws regarding worker safety" when Tuan Phan was killed on Aug. 19, 2011, but that American Apparel decided to settle "in a manner believed to be fair and that avoids the expense of protracted litigation." There would be no further comment from the company, the lawyer added.

Prosecutors had alleged that American Apparel failed to unplug the knitting machine from the main power supply during maintenance and then failed to lock it or "tag it," which would have notified workers in the Garden Grove facility that it was not safe for use.

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The cash payout includes $150,000 for Phan's daughter, $282,000 to the state for investigative costs and $566,000 in civil penalties, according to the Orange County District Attorney's office, which added the settlement of California v. American Apparel also resolves civil citations issued by Cal-OSHA.

The largest clothing manufacturer in the United States (whose ads in our paper we appreciate), American Apparel signed a 10-year lease on 70,000 square feet of space within a Garden Grove industrial property in January 2009. That joined 32,000 square feet of industrial space the company was used elsewhere in the city.

Until the Orange County worker safety case, court watchers were more used to employee allegations of misconduct and sexual harassment by American Apparel founder Dov Charney, who openly admitted to dating his underlings and walking around the company headquarters in his underwear. The company's board ousted Charney as president and CEO "for cause" in June following an "ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct."

Email: Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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