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Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

ESA-WHD New Release: [08/12/2000]
Contact Name: Deanne Amaden
Phone Number: (415) 975-4741
Release Number:

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Department of Labor has found that only one in three garment manufacturing shops in the Los Angeles area are in compliance with the Federal minimum wage and overtime law. The results of the department’s 2000 Southern California garment compliance survey were made public at a meeting with stakeholders in Los Angeles today.

"We are disappointed that the level of compliance with some of our most basic labor standards continues to be this low in Southern California," said Bernard E. Anderson, Assistant Secretary for Employment Standards. "The department has stepped up enforcement, broadened compliance education, and sought new partners to improve compliance in this industry. We are continuing to analyze the data gathered in this survey and broaden our dialogue with the industry to determine how to enhance our strategies and enlist others in our campaign to eliminate sweatshops."

This fourth investigation-based survey of 67 garment production shops is a statistically valid sampling of the garment industry in Southern California. The survey by the Employment Standard Administration’s Wage and Hour Division found that the overall level of compliance with the minimum wage, overtime and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is 33 percent. This rate of compliance is somewhat better than in 1994 when the compliance rate was first measured at 22 percent, but the level of compliance has stagnated since 1996.

The survey found that the number of shops being monitored for compliance with labor laws by their manufacturers remains high – at about 70 percent. The survey reconfirms that compliance monitoring does promote higher levels of compliance. Only about 10 percent of the shops not monitored were in compliance with the minimum wage and overtime requirements. The compliance rate of shops subject to a thorough monitoring program was 44 percent—four times greater—but still quite low.

"The Department continues to believe that monitoring of contractor shops by manufacturers can be an important factor in improving compliance," T. Michael Kerr, the Wage and Hour Administrator, said. "However, monitoring is only one part of what must be a much more comprehensive solution to the very pervasive compliance problems in this industry, and our survey findings indicate that the quality of monitoring is suspect."

This year, for the first time, the Southern California survey also included a statistically valid sample of 35 firms previously investigated and found in violation. The level of compliance for these prior violators was determined to be 37 percent—only slightly higher than the overall level of compliance.

"Clearly, the survey results compel us to look at implementing new and more effective enforcement tools, including using litigation to pursue civil money penalty assessments against repeat and willful violators. We will vigorously enforce the ‘hot goods’ provisions of the FLSA, work to disgorge the ill-gotten gains from the sale of ‘hot goods’ and obtain and enforce injunctions to assure compliance by garment contractors and manufacturers. Our strategy also includes more referrals to the U.S. Attorneys for consideration of criminal prosecutions," said Kerr. "We need to impact all levels of the industry—contractor shops, manufacturers and retailers—to help end the exploitation of garment workers in the United States."

The two survey components found nearly $900,000 in minimum wage and overtime back wages due to more than 1400 employees for the time periods covered by the investigations. Three firms were cited for illegally employing three minors, and five firms were cited for illegally employing homeworkers. To date, more than $400,000 in fines have been assessed for repeat and willful violations of the FLSA.

The Wage and Hour Division’s West Covina District Office coordinated the survey in conjunction with the State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations’ Labor Standards Enforcement and Occupational Safety and Health Divisions.

Information about the Department’s "No Sweat" program may be found at


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