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Charney suit sent to arbitrator

Jury won't hear sex harassment allegations against designer.

January 25, 2008|Carla Hall | Times Staff Writer

The sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former employee against American Apparel and its founder, Dov Charney, will be decided by binding arbitration, Charney's attorney said Thursday.

Both sides will be bound by the decision of the arbitrator or private judge they select.

That means it is unlikely a jury will hear the plaintiff's account of Charney conducting business clad only in his underwear or, occasionally, something even skimpier. Mary Nelson, 36, a former sales representative for American Apparel, says Charney, 38, also used vile language and derogatory terms for women. Nelson contends she was wrongfully terminated from her job shortly after consulting a lawyer.

"Since the beginning of the case we have felt very strongly . . . that much of what Miss Nelson was complaining about is guaranteed by our constitutional right to free speech," said Charney's attorney, Adam Levin, who called his client "a phenomenal businessman and a marketing genius."

Lawyers for both sides spent six hours Wednesday in a room off Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John P. Shook's courtroom. They shuttled in and out -- cellphones and BlackBerries in tow -- so often that all the door opening and shutting was reminiscent of a French farce.

They agreed to arbitration Wednesday evening.

Both sides had said they were prepared for trial. Keith Fink, Nelson's attorney, said he had expected a trial to last a month.

He did not return phone calls Thursday.

carla.hall@latimes.com

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