Fashion designer sues Fort Myers clothing company

CREATED Jan. 2, 2014

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FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) - A Lee County designer is suing Fort Myers-based national retailer Chico's, contending her bosses tried to force her to copy other designers' handbags.

The Naples Daily News reports Paula Bonnafant was hired as a contractor by the retailer as a women's handbag designer in 2009 and as a full-time employee in January 2011.

The whistleblower suit was filed in late December in Lee County Circuit Court. It alleges that the women's fashion company repeatedly rejected her original designs and instead instructed her to duplicate the designs of others.

The suit said that Bonnafant was fired after protesting.

Chico's FAS attorney Otto Immel has asked to move the case from state to federal court, but declined comment on the suit.

A Chico's spokesman was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts.

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