American Apparel to Pay $343,000 for Racial Slur

The nationwide chain lost its case against former employee Christopher Renfro.

Posted: 07/07/2011 06:05 PM EDT

An African-American former employee at American Apparel is now around $300,000 richer.

 

Christopher Renfro sued the controversial clothing chain after he said a co-worker repeatedly called him the N-word in 2008 while on a business trip to renovate stores. The co-worker, Sean Alonzo, reports directly to the chain’s CEO, Dov Charney.

 

“Both in deposition and during the arbitration, Mr. Alonzo admitted to using the word but tried to say that he was only singing along to music. American Apparel gave Mr. Alonzo a raise just days after supposedly ‘disciplining’ him for the conduct,” says the plaintiff’s attorney Barbara Figari.

 

She also says that Mr. Alonzo subjected Mr. Renfro to severe racial harassment and demonstrated an “official racial hostility” and a “confused and persistent attempt to avoid blame for obvious wrongdoing.”

 

Renfro was awarded $342,919.95, much of which was swelled by lawyer fees, according to American Apparel’s attorney.

 

This is not the first time that the clothing company has come under fire for alleged racist actions. This time last year internal documents and former employee testimonies gathered by Gawker.com said that the chain discriminated intensely against hiring Black women. The site reports that a former employee was told regarding African-American job applicants, “None of the trashy kind that come in, we don't want that. We’re not trying to sell our clothes to them. Try to find some of these classy Black girls, with nice hair, you know?"

 

The company denies any other wrongdoing and says that Mr. Renfro’s case is the first racial discrimination suit in the company’s history.

(Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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