In a press release from the United States Department of Labor in San Francisco, the Wage and Hour Division and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement discovered violations of state and federal labor laws by 10 garment contractors who were inspected during a sweep of one building in downtown Los Angeles earlier in 2012.
The violations discovered were of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions. The investigation yielded more than $326,000 in back wages for some 185 employees.
“The extent of the violations discovered by these investigations was disappointing. Retailers need to actively ensure that clothes produced in the U.S. for sale to the American public are made by workers who are paid at least the U.S. minimum wage and proper overtime,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Federal, state, local and industry stakeholders can work together to foster a vibrant, and compliant, domestic fashion industry.”
Julie Su, the labor commission for California, said in the press release, “The garment industry is a vital part of the economy of Los Angeles and California. State law prohibits garment manufacturers from operating without a proper license, from violating state minimum wage and overtime laws, and from playing shell games to avoid paying workers properly. We are intent on making sure that sweatshop practices are eliminated so that consumers can proudly purchase garments made in L.A., honest companies can compete and garment workers can thrive.”
The investigations, which were not announced, occurred at 830 S. Hill St. in downtown Los Angeles and were carried out by federal and state investigators. The reason the building was targeted was that there were earlier investigations at that location that discovered labor violations and possible conditions comparable to a sweatshop.
The investigation discovered that a lot of the employees were paid by piece instead of by minimum wage or overtime pay. This means that the employee was paid per piece of garment that he or she was able to sew or cut. The investigation found that the wages earned by the employees averaged out to less than $6.50 per hour, which is below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The California minimum wage is $8 per hour.
The same employees were not paid the overtime value of time and one-half their regular pay rates for hours they worked over 40 in one week. The investigation found falsification of time cards, failing to keep accurate records and under-reporting. According to the press release, the companies receiving the garments made by the underpaid employees included the following:
Aldo Group Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard’s Inc., Forever 21 Inc., Frasier Clothing Co. (Susan Lawrence), HSN Inc. (Home Shopping Network), Rainbow Apparel Inc., Ross Stores Inc., TJX Cos. Inc. (TJ Maxx and Marshall’s), Urban Outfitters Inc. and The Wet Seal Inc.