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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: Labor Department Releases Quarterly Garment Report Investigations Recover Over $330,000 Owed to Workers [03/30/1998]

For more information call: 202/219-7317 (ext. 118)

The U.S. Department of Labor recovered $330,595 in back wages for 1,233 garment workers during the last three months of 1997, according to the department's Garment Enforcement Report released today.

From October 1 to December 31, 1997, the department's Wage and Hour Division conducted 221 investigations, finding minimum wage and overtime violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 80 cases. In addition, the department assessed $49,550 in civil money penalties for repeat and willful violations of minimum wage and overtime laws.

"Our quarterly Garment Enforcement Report indicates that too many apparel firms are refusing to obey our wage laws and pay workers the money they deserve," stated U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis M. Herman. "We will continue to be unflagging in our vigorous enforcement of the law, and we will continue to provide consumers, as well as retailers, with information about garment contractors that violate the law and the manufacturers that do business with them."

The two largest cases in the report involved New York City garment contractors, Laura & Sarah Sportswear, Inc. (a.k.a. MSL Sportswear, Inc.) and MF Fashions. Labor Department investigators uncovered wage violations of $214,000 with respect to 73 Laura & Sarah workers, and $55,210 for 27 MF Fashion employees. The department found workers in both shops were not regularly paid from August through November and had not received correct overtime pay since May 1997. To date, the department has recovered more than $92,000 for the Laura & Sarah employees and more than $25,000 for the workers at MF Fashion.

The department has continued to negotiate with the contractors and manufacturers to recover the balance of wages owed to the workers and has also sued one of the manufacturers, Fashion Headquarters, to block shipment of "hot goods." In February, the department obtained a preliminary injunction that barred Fashion Headquarters from shipping "hot goods" and required that it take steps which will help ensure that its contractors pay the workers.

As a result of these investigations, four national retailers, Kmart, The Limited, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart, agreed in December to increase unannounced monitoring of their contractors and to step up their efforts to ensure that their private label lines are not made in sweatshop conditions.

The report also includes the results of eight investigations involving garments produced by Byer, a San Francisco-based manufacturer. These cases were among a series of investigations of Byer contractors conducted as part of the department's ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of manufacturer compliance monitoring programs. The Wage and Hour Division's review found that 93 percent of Byer contractors were in compliance with minimum wage requirements, and 83 percent were in compliance with overtime requirements.

Nationally, the report lists a total of 56 contractors and 111 manufacturers. California was the state with the most investigations (84) this quarter; the most investigations with violations found (36); the most back wages recovered ($147,040); and the most workers receiving back wages (531).

The U.S. Department of Labor began issuing the quarterly Garment Enforcement Report in May 1996. The report is available to the public.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
March 30, 1998
Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number