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Federal court orders Forever 21 to surrender supply chain information subpoenaed by US Department of Labor
LOS ANGELES — U.S. District Court Judge Margaret Morrow has ordered Los Angeles-based apparel retailer Forever 21 to produce documents demanded by an administrative subpoena issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. The order is the latest in a series of actions to arise from the department's continuing effort to address widespread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions in the Southern California apparel industry.
"Garment workers historically have been subjected to exploitation and paid substandard wages," said Solicitor of Labor M. Patricia Smith. "The order underscores that everyone in the supply chain has a responsibility to ensure that workers receive the federal minimum wage and earned overtime, and it demonstrates our commitment to enforcing those protections despite tactics designed to obscure the employment relationship."
The division issued the subpoena on Aug. 16, 2012, during the course of an investigation into whether Forever 21 had violated the "hot goods" provision of the FLSA, which prohibits employers from shipping in commerce any goods produced in violation of the act's minimum wage, overtime or child labor standards. Under the FLSA, the secretary of labor may investigate and bring actions in federal court to enjoin violations.
In the court's order granting the petition for enforcement of the investigative subpoena issued to Forever 21, Morrow found that the subpoena was part of a "lawful investigation within the authority of the secretary."
The order was signed and entered March 7 in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Forever 21 is required to produce the requested documents within 10 days of that date.
The subpoena initially was issued following the department's sweep of garment sewing factories in downtown Los Angeles, which began Aug. 7, 2012, and uncovered minimum wage and overtime violations in shops producing goods for major garment retailers. Investigators determined that garments produced in at least one of the shops investigated were destined for Forever 21 stores. Forever 21 refused to comply with the subpoena.
In the past five years, the department has conducted more than 1,500 investigations of employers in Southern California's garment industry, finding violations in 93 percent of cases. The FLSA requires employers to pay covered, nonexempt employees no less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and to pay overtime compensation at time and one-half employees' regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 in a week.
More information about the FLSA is available by contacting the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or visiting its Web site at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.
- Read the Court Order (PDF)