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Labor Department Recovered $1.5 Million in Back Wages for California Garment Workers

Southern California garment factory workers were victims of labor violations this year that infringed on their rights to minimum wage and overtime pay.

The U.S. Department of Labor has said it recovered more than $1.5 million in back wages and damages for 668 Southern California garment industry employees in investigations by its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) in 2018.

The WHD investigations found employers paid below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The agency’s investigations also discovered that employers often failed to pay employees overtime at time and a half of their regular pay rate when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

As part of its efforts, WHD said officials regularly educate employers and meet with retailers to encourage them to buy only from suppliers that comply with federal labor laws. The division is also further examining the role garment pricing plays in a manufacturer’s ability to pay workers legally required minimum wages.

“We still find high rates of noncompliance even after years of strong education and outreach efforts balanced with targeted enforcement in the garment industry,” said Ruben Rosealez, WHD regional administrator in San Francisco. “These employees are regularly denied minimum wage and overtime for the long, hard hours they put in on the job. All those in the industry need to recognize that if the price they pay for production done in the U.S. is too low, it can cause egregious minimum wage and overtime violations, unfairly undercutting their competition.”

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Among the notable incidences of the division’s investigations in Los Angeles were $49,974 recovered for 32 employees after Valle Fashion failed to pay overtime to employees who, in many cases, earned less than the federal minimum wage. Valle also failed to maintain adequate time records.

Owed federal minimum wage and overtime amounting to $61,765 was distributed to 18 employees at DAWA Fashion. Investigators determined DAWA used computer software to falsify pay records.

Eleven employees at KIT received $32,623 in minimum wage and overtime they were denied. Investigators had cited KIT for record keeping violations. A total of $54,211 was recovered for 16 employees for the failure of Casa Q to pay employees the federal minimum wage and overtime. WHD also cited Casa Q for record keeping violations.

The department noted that employers that discover overtime or minimum wage violations can self-report and resolve those violations without litigation through the PAID program. Under PAID, employers are encouraged to conduct audits and if they discover overtime or minimum wage violations, and can then work in good faith with WHD to correct their mistakes and quickly provide 100 percent of the back wages due to their affected employees.