In an unusual step, American Apparel Inc. filed suit Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court against a former employee in an attempt to pre-empt a wrongful discrimination lawsuit from her. The Los Angeles-based company believed she would file suit because she is represented by Keith Fink, a lawyer who has battled American Apparel recently.

American Apparel's instincts were correct because later Monday, Fink filed a sexual harassment and wrongful termination lawsuit against the company on behalf of Wei Ween Yang, a former American Apparel manager, also known as Nikky Yang.

Joyce Crucillo, American Apparel's general counsel, said the company's preemptive suit against Yang asks a state court judge to issue a declaratory judgment ruling that any discrimination or harassment claims Yang brings against the company have passed the statute of limitations and a lawsuit alleging such claims has no standing in court.

"Instead of being victimized by Fink and another one of his frivolous lawsuits designed to extort money from us through the media, we wanted to take an affirmative action and come to the court and the public and say, 'We would like a declaration that American Apparel has not discriminated or harassed,' " Crucillo said.

Crucillo added that American Apparel took an aggressive stance against Yang, and she said the company filed the preemptive suit, a rare move in employment disputes, because the clothing manufacturer and retailer knew that Fink would be involved in the case.

"I found out that Fink was going to represent Yang because I had intercepted an e-mail he sent to her old work e-mail address," Crucillo said. "There is a long and ugly history between American Apparel and Fink."

Fink did not return a call seeking comment.

A West Los Angeles labor and employment attorney, Fink has previously filed two sexual harassment and employment discrimination lawsuits against American Apparel and its colorful chief executive, Dov Charney.

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