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Extensive violations of federal, state laws found among garment contractors at Los Angeles Fashion District location
Shops producing garments sold by major retailers underpaid 185 workers by $326,000
LOS ANGELES — The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement found serious violations of federal and state labor laws by each of 10 garment contractors inspected during a sweep of a single building in the Los Angeles Fashion District earlier this year. Division investigators found widespread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions, resulting in the recovery of more than $326,200 in back wages for 185 employees.
The garments being produced by violators were destined for sale at more than 30 retailers nationwide, including 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 Wet Seal Inc.
"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."
"The garment industry is a vital part of the economy of Los Angeles and California," said Julie Su, California's labor commissioner. "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."
Teams of federal and state investigators conducted unannounced investigations of employers operating out a large garment building at 830 S. Hill St. in downtown Los Angeles, where previous investigations had revealed significant labor violations and sweatshop-like employment conditions.
Investigators found many garment employees were paid a piece rate — that is, paid for each piece they sewed or cut — without regard to minimum wage or overtime pay requirements. On average, workers' wages amounted to less than $6.50 per hour — well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and the California minimum wage of $8 per hour. None of these employees received the overtime premium of time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked over 40 per week, as required under the FLSA. Significant record-keeping violations also were disclosed, including falsified time cards and under-reporting or failing to maintain accurate records of actual hours worked by garment employees.
The "hot goods" provision of the FLSA prohibits the shipment in interstate commerce of goods that were produced in violation of the act's minimum wage, overtime or child labor provisions. Upon determining that garments were produced in violation of the FLSA, the division requested that the garment contractors voluntarily not ship the goods until the violations were resolved. Several manufacturers, for whom the violators were producing goods, paid a portion of the back wages due, after which the division lifted its objection to the shipment of the goods.
State investigators issued citations to three establishments not registered as garment contractors and cited the shops for failing to provide itemized deductions, pay the state minimum wage or comply with state overtime pay requirements.
The investigations conducted at this location are part of the Wage and Hour Division's multi-year enforcement initiative focused on Southern California's garment industry, in which it historically has found consistent and widespread violations of the FLSA's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. The initiative is concentrating on employers in Los Angeles and Orange counties, including those operating out of large garment buildings in the city's Fashion District. For more information about the initiative, see the division's Aug. 8 press release at http://www.dol.gov/whd/media/press/whdpressVB3.asp?pressdoc=Western/20120808.xml.
The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked over 40 per week. In general, "hours worked" includes all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work, from the beginning of the first principal work activity to the end of the last principal activity of the workday. Additionally, the law requires that accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained. California's minimum wage is $8 per hour, higher than the U.S. minimum wage, and overtime pay is required after eight hours worked in a day under state law. California employers are subject to both standards.
Information about the FLSA is available by contacting the Wage and Hour Division's offices in Los Angeles at 213-894-6375, West Covina at 626-966-0478 or Orange County at 714-621-1650. Additionally, information about all of the federal labor laws enforced by the division is available in English, Spanish, Korean and other languages by calling the agency's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visiting its website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.