This attitude in fact percolates to American Apparel’s culture, is almost second-nature for most of the employees and is visible even in the decor of its stores. The stores' white walls are dotted with product shots. Like the company's signature advertisements, these are grainy, seemingly candid photos of young people in various states of undress. Charney has been adept at weaving his libertarian sexual attitude with his progressive labor practices. But to make it the gospel or the bedrock principle for it to be followed by ALL of its employees is another story.
In May 2005, he was sued by three women -- all former American Apparel employees -- who claim they were sexually harassed by him at work. Businessweek spoke to multiple employees of American Apparel to gather an understanding of the under-currents of their workplace. Most stated that the place reeks of a highly sexual atmosphere and they were offended by it. So much so that Mr. Charney himself does not deny a report that precluded the sexual harassment case filed, which reported that he engaged in graphic sexual acts with a female employee in presence of the journalist.
Seniors actively pursued sexual relationships with the junior colleagues and rewarded them accordingly. Yet, there are people with sound sense everywhere and there were 3 women employees who complained of sexual harassment. They consequently filed a case against Mr. Charney. He came out in his defense flatly refuting the charges against him and claimed that these 3 women were sub-standard employees and gave no indication before they left that they had felt harassed. By all accounts, the 3 litigants were not involved with him physically.
Yet, all 3 accused Mr. Charney of using foul and unparliamentary language frequently when conversing with them. They also said that this offended and shocked them and created “a hostile work environment. ” One of the women stated that her boss made her work life miserable with unwelcome sexual comments and suggestive signals. And she says she was dismissed after she complained. One of the purposes that this case serves is that it clearly illustrates the role of perception of sexual harassment at workplace.
Business owners, managers and the business culture they propagate are critical components of any no-tolerance plan regarding sexual harassment. Should harassment occur, evidence needs to be provided that appropriate steps are undertaken to prevent and handle the incident. This is why a sexual harassment policy is critical. However, in American Apparel’s case, instead of a robust policy to take care of any potential sexual harassment case, the CEO of the firm himself indulged in harassing his exployees. This resulted in the perception that has come to be recognized now with the name of American Apparel.
The company even maintains a string of apartments in the U. S. and Canada to save money on hotel rooms for obvious purposes. Any potential employee now goes looking for a job in A. A. knowing fully well the attitude of the firm towards sexual and suggestive behaviour in the workplace. Practices in business related to sexual harassment: Sexual harassment training programs: As much as 62% of all US businesses now offer some kind of sexual harassment prevention training programs for employees: managers and subordinates alike.
Though not a legal requirement for any business(yet), these programs do tend to serve as an assurance in the minds of the employers that should there be a case of sexual harassment at work, they do have a recourse, a channel to address it. And to protect them in case a lawsuit is filed. Some reports suggest that sexual harassment cases are increasingly on the rise. Not only this, the reports also suggest that the harassment has reached the higher levels of management, as in the case of American Apparel.
Keeping this in mind, it becomes all the more imperative and necessary for a firm to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. It is imperative that an employee is provided a safe and comfortable environment to work in. In “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Primer”, Barry Roberts and Richard Mann recommend that businesses need to understand sexual harassment; communicate a policy; enforce a policy; establish procedures; and enforce policy. In that respect, a sexual harassment training program plays an all important role. For a policy or set of grievance procedures to be effective, all employees, from upervisors to line workers, administrators to custodial staff, need to be knowledgeable about the company's policy and grievance procedures. Sexual harassment training needs to be very explicit in explaining the laws pertaining to sexual harassment, clearly define and describe the company’s policy and its grievance procedure. Effective programs reflect good teaching and learning practices. They are descriptive, intensive, relevant, and positive (Berkowitz 1998): --They require the involvement of all members of a company or school and include family and community members who have an influence on the employees' or students' life. -They offer participatory, problem-based learning experiences that are interactive and actively engage the student in learning. --They are tailored to the "age, community culture, and socioeconomic status of the trainee and are contextualized to the individual's peer group experiences" (ibid. , p. 3). --They present information from a positive viewpoint, encouraging healthy behavior rather than forbidding poor behaviour.