Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) January 2, 2015 - Clothing made in California for outlets such as Macy's, JC Penney and Kohl's, actually comes from local sweatshops where some employers routinely unplug the clock intended to keep track of worker’s hours.
The U.S. Department of Labor determined Los Angeles-based P & Young Apparel Inc. was falsifying payroll records after an investigation revealed time cards that alleged workers on the same shift all checked in within two minutes of one another, a classic indication of tampering. Ultimately, P & Young owed the 15 employees in question $33,000 for their unpaid work. But this case is just the tip of the iceberg, and the fines employers face are cheaper to pay than paying their workers.
“It might sound impossible that sweatshops can and do exist in Los Angeles, but they do. Most people when they hear that term think of India or Thailand, not the good old USA. However, the fact is that P & Young Apparel Inc., is stealing wages from their workers by stopping the clock that tracks their hours,” explained respected Sacramento employment attorney, Deborah Barron of Barron Law. “Many of their workers are undocumented immigrants and they are being taken advantage of.”
Wage theft is alive and well in California, and according to the Department of Labor there were 239 such investigations in 2013, with 90 percent in Southern California. The workplaces where wage theft is occurring are stereotypical sweatshop operations. Employers pay only 9 cents per item stitched, and workers collect these minuscule pay checks by paying a fee at check cashing stores. Many of the workspaces are in rickety, buildings with old elevators and bad lighting that flickers on and off intermittently.
During the course of delving into the extensive wage theft, Labor Department investigators discovered that employers owed more than $3 million in unpaid wages to 1,549 garment workers, approximately five weeks worth of wages at an average of $1,900 per employee. The Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation said the garment industry is the second-largest employer in the area, trailing slightly behind transportation equipment manufacturers.
Sweatshops in Los Angeles have diminished over the last 20 years as more garment makers outsource their work to low-wage countries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are now only 2,174 shops, down from 4,348 and 46,333 employees, down from double that number.
“For workers who may be in a workplace where wage theft is common, you do have legal rights, whether you are an undocumented worker or not. Our office can advise you of those rights,” added Barron.
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