L.A.-based fashion empire American Apparel has agreed to fork over $1 million after a worker was "mangled and killed" by an industrial knitting machine at the company's Garden Grove facility, the Orange County District Attorney's office announced today.
The cash settles a civil suit brought by the O.C. District Attorney at the behest of state workplace authorities, prosecutors said.
The employee, Tuan Phan, was killed in the Aug. 19, 2011 accident:
The District Attorney's office alleges that American Apparel failed to unplug the knitting machine for maintenance, and that the company did not lock it or "tag" it, which would have notified workers it was not to be used.
The company, known for championing immigrant-workers' rights and a "sweat-shop free" factory in downtown L.A., denies that it violated the law and says that it maintains a safe working environment.
Here's the statement American Apparel sent to L.A. Weekly:
In August 2011, an American Apparel knitting machine operator died in a tragic industrial accident. While the company does not believe it violated any laws regarding worker safety, it has entered into an agreement with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office to resolve civil citations issued by Cal-OSHA in a manner believed to be fair and that avoids the expense of protracted litigation. 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.
According to the Orange County District Attorney's office, American Apparel is under an injunction that requires it to abide by workplace safety laws, train employees on matters of safety, and undergo annual audits by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
The settlement includes $150,000 for Phan's daughter, $283,000 to the state for investigative costs, and $566,000 in civil penalties, prosecutors said.
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Here's how the D.A. described what allegedly happened:
On Aug. 19, 2011, a knitting machine in an American Apparel facility in Garden Grove was undergoing maintenance, and was turned off but still connected to a power source. The machine was not tagged-out or locked-out, as required, and individuals were not properly trained to safely de-energize the machines. As a result, when employee Tuan Phan entered the knitting machine cage, the machine re-started and Phan was subsequently mangled and killed by the machine.
In June American Apparel co-founder and CEO Dov Charney was dismissed by the company's corporate board amid longstanding rumors and allegations of sexual improprieties. He has vowed to take the firm back and make it profitable again.