State and Federal Investigation Uncovers Massive Wage and Hour Violations in Downtown Los Angeles Garment Industry
February 1, 2013
In a previous Santa Ana, California employment lawyers blog, Vincent Howard discussed the launch of the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) enforcement initiative focusing on the garment industry in Southern California--an industry with a record of consistent and wide spread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
According to a related WHD news report, during a recent sweep of a single building in the Los Angeles Fashion District, the WHD and the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) found extensive violations of federal and state wage and hour laws by all of the ten garment contractors inspected in the building. The investigators found massive violations of the overtime payment, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions of the FLSA, with over $326,200 recovered in back wages for 185 low-wage employees.
As Vincent Howard frequently reports in Howard Law's labor and employment lawyers blog, wage theft is a serious problem in low-wage California industries like the garment industry, with vulnerable workers who are routinely paid less than minimum wage, denied overtime compensation, and other employee benefits.
According to former Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, the results found by the investigations are disappointing, as it is the responsibility of retailers to actively ensure that the garments produced in this country for sale to the American public are made by workers who are compensated fairly with at least the federal minimum wage, and overtime payment.
California's labor commissioner, Julie Su, stated that the garment industry is a huge part of the Los Angeles and California economy, and under state law, garment manufacturers are prohibited from operating without a license, from violating state minimum wage and overtime laws, and from avoiding the proper payment of garment workers. Su claimed that the commissioner's office is working to ensure that sweatshop practices in California are eliminated, so that honest Los Angeles companies can compete in the workplace, garment workers can have fair employment and thrive, and so that consumers can be proud purchasing garments made in Los Angeles.
The investigation reportedly focused on one large garment building in downtown Los Angeles, and conducted an unannounced investigation of employers operating out of the building, who produce retail apparel for brands like Dillard's, Inc., Aldo Group, Inc., HSN, Inc., Urban Outfitters, Inc., and Wet Seal, Inc., among others. Investigators found that many workers were paid on a piece rate, with no regard to the state and federal minimum wage or overtime compensation requirements. The workers' wage compensation on average totaled less that $6.50 per hour, well below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and the California state minimum wage of $8 per hour.
The investigators found that not a single employee received overtime compensation of one and one half their regular pay rates for all hours worked beyond forty in a workweek--as required by the FLSA. There were also major record-keeping violations found, including time cards that were falsified, along with an under reporting of hours. The employers were also found to have failed to maintain accurate records of the garment workers' actual hours.
At Howard Law, PC, our employment and labor lawyers believe that all California workers are entitled to their right to fair working conditions that are free from unlawful wage and hour violations. If you or someone you know has been subjected to wage theft and wage and hour violations in the workplace in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, contact Vincent Howard and our dedicated staff of labor and employment professionals today.
Extensive violations of federal, state laws found among garment contractors at Los Angeles Fashion District location, U.S. Department of Labor Press Release, December 13, 2013
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