Denounce American Apparel’s Sexist and Ageist Employment Practices

Target: American Apparel

Goal: Stop consumers from shopping at American Apparel stores because this company encourages sexism and ageism in their hiring and firing practices.

Getting a job in America is harder than it was decades ago and people will go the extra mile to get a paid gig. That may mean hounding a company for a job until they can’t be refused or volunteering work hours as an intern in hopes of being hired in the near future. But to get a job at American Apparel, women have to use their looks. They are required to send in a headshot and a body shot along with their resume. And that’s just the beginning.

Past employees say that resumes were worthless. They are literally thrown in the garbage. The photos that applicants send in are the only thing recruiters at the company see. Someone gives each applicant a thumbs up or thumbs down, which is the basis for hiring. Before they are hired, employees sign a waiver form that saves American Apparel from being prosecuted for physical attractiveness bias in hiring.

Once they are hired, employees are added to a mailing list and website. The mailing list is for memos about how to look hotter and which races to hire more of. Men employed at upper management levels control the website. They come to the stores and take photos of the girls working and posing. The pictures are used to characterize unacceptable styles and looks including eyebrows being too thin, too many piercings or tattoos, or wearing ugly makeup. These girls were conveniently let go. Other pictures that were more acceptable weren’t necessarily posted on the website, but kept as documentation somewhere on American Apparel servers.

American Apparel not only hires based on looks; they also hire based on age. Most employees are teenagers or in their early twenties. There is one report of a 13-year-old girl being hired. Another 17-year-old employee was photographed multiple times by upper management. After being approved based on her looks she was invited to a company party, which she couldn’t attend because she was underage. When she let them know she couldn’t go to the company party, they invited her to a party in a hotel room instead, which she declined. She was let go one pay period later.

American Apparel hires based on attractiveness and age biases. Employees are taken advantage of by upper management through pressure to look a certain way, by having their photographs taken by strange men, and by being pressured to attend hotel parties. While no one currently working with the company is legally allowed to talk about what they are being put through, many past employees are willing to speak up against this company. Support these girls who no longer work for American Apparel because they were told they were not pretty enough or because they didn’t want to jeopardize their values. Stop shopping at American Apparel. How you spend your money is how you vote for what exists in the world.


Dear American Apparel,

Many girls who previously worked at your stores have come forward to explain your company’s manipulative practices. Hiring based on submitted photos, continuing to photograph girls in stores, scapegoating girls for not looking like you have prescribed them to look, and pressuring girls into attending your parties is unacceptable.

Your hiring practices are sexist and ageist. These practices denigrate women, especially those who do not fit into your definition of beautiful. You manipulate girls into divorcing their values to keep their job. If they don’t look sexy for the men you hire to take their photographs or if they don’t attend one of your secret hotel parties, they are conveniently let go. I will not support this. I will not spend my money in your stores and I will spread the news that American Apparel is corrupt until you implement transparent hiring and firing practices.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit:  Flickr

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One Comment

  1. I agree with the petition’s author that American Apparel’s hiring practices are offensive, disgusting, and unacceptable. However she seems to fail to consider what the alternatives are. Perhaps it’s not AS bad at Hollister or American Eagle, but I’d be quite surprised if those places don’t make physical appearance a large consideration in their hiring.

    Furthermore, consider the production of the clothing. The vast majority of clothing available in the US is made in other countries, most often in sweatshops where discrimination and sexism are the least of the workers’ concerns. That’s because they are overworked, underpaid, have poor working conditions, and face threats to their safety. At least American Apparel makes all of their clothing in Los Angeles and pays workers above minimum wage and provides some benefits.

    American Apparel is not the best clothing retailer. It is not perfect. But all things considered, it is one of the most ethical clothing retailers available.

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