Dov Charney Balks at Labor Board Subpoena

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney fought a judge’s recommendation that he testify at an unfair labor practices hearing by restating his belief that a court order enforcing an American Apparel subpoena would intrude on his personal life.
     In February, the National Labor Relations Board asked a judge to order the Canadian-born businessman to appear at a labor board hearing in Los Angeles. The agency sought the ruling after Charney defied a hearing officer who asked him to appear at a Jan. 12 meeting, pursuant to the retailer’s subpoena.
     The General Brotherhood of Workers of American Apparel wants to unionize at the retailer’s LA warehouses. The workers have filed a petition with the labor relations board which oversees elections for union representation.
     American Apparel has asked the board to deny the petition. The retailer says that Charney’s friends, roommates, and former American Apparel executives created the organization — a conflict of interest that precludes unionization.
     American Apparel has laid off more than 500 employees and may yet outsource some manufacturing to a third party, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month. The retailer has 4,600 workers in Southern California.
     The retailer had subpoenaed Charney to testify about his communications with five individuals connected to the union, also referred to in filings as Hermandad Mexicana, “TeamDov” and “Workers United to Save American Apparel.”
     American Apparel says Charney should produce financial records that would account for the money he has paid or loaned to the union or any business licenses he has helped to provide.
     In a report and recommendation issued on March 24, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenly Kiya Kato said the federal court should grant the board’s application and order Charney to appear.
     Kato’s report called Charney’s fight against the clothing retailer’s subpoena “nonsensical” and “meritless.”
     But an objection filed Friday by Charney’s attorney Keith Fink argues that Charney is a third party in the labor relations board hearings and that the court should protect his constitutional right to privacy.
     The board has “provided no safeguard to ensure that Charney’s personal and private
     information will remain confidential” and American Apparel’s subpoena seeks “potentially sensitive and confidential details about Charney’s personal life,” the objection said.
     Documents requested under the subpoena include communications or messages between Charney and his close friends, according to Charney.
     “As a third-party to the case, it is unduly prejudicial for Charney to be forced to publicly share these communications,” the 10-page objection said.
     Ordering Charney to reveal the business licenses filed from Jan. 1, 2015 would “reveal potentially sensitive proprietary information and confidential details about his business affairs, which are wholly unrelated to the issue before the board,” Charney said.
     “Absent an affirmative showing that such evidence is relevant and material to the board’s investigation, such request is an invasion of Charney’s federal privacy rights and as such, the subpoena should not be enforced,” he continued.
     Charney also restated claims that the subpoena allows American Apparel to go on a “fishing expedition” to obtain “free discovery” as it defends against five lawsuits Charney filed in the wake of his 2014 ouster from the company he founded.
     “Given the fact that Charney is heavily involved in litigation with American Apparel, and a third-party to the underlying case, this court should proceed with extra caution in requiring Charney to testify before the board, when without a court order stating otherwise, the sky is the limit for American Apparel’s lines of questioning,” Charney said in his objection.
     If the court does enforce the subpoena, a judge should limit the scope of the inquiry at the hearing to only include information that is relevant to whether or not the businessman’s ties to the union create a conflict, Charney said.
     Charney had attempted to reverse his December 2014 firing as American Apparel CEO but a U.S. bankruptcy court’s approval of the company’s exit plan in February dashed his hopes.
     The retailer ousted Charney after allegations of personal and financial misconduct.
     Charney was unavailable for comment by phone on Monday.
     Fink wrote in an email to Courthouse News that that his client was only involved in the case as a witness.
     American Apparel “continues to resist efforts by its workforce, dissatisfied with new management, to unionize,” Fink said.
     American Apparel responded to an email but did not specifically comment on Charney’s filing.

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