State Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Sweep Through Calif. Garment Shops

December 1, 2004

The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), in cooperation with the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), the Employment Development Department (EDD), the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) and the California Conservation Corps (CCC), is conducting sweeps this week of garment shops in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. Sweeps are unannounced inspections to check for employer compliance with state and federal workplace rules, including making sure employers provide workers’ compensation insurance.

“In California all workers have rights,” said Jose Millan, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency deputy secretary for enforcement. “And responsible employers deserve vigorous enforcement to level the playing field. Using the multi-agency approach to sweeps leverages government resources and encourages unscrupulous employers — who gain an unfair economic advantage by not following the rules — to come into compliance.”

During the sweeps, enforcement teams, consisting of members from each participating agency, fan out over a geographic area to inspect shops. The teams focus on irresponsible garment contractors and manufacturers improperly paying workers and exposing them to health and safety hazards.

“Often employers found in violation of wage, overtime, cash pay and child labor laws are the same employers who fail to comply with safety and health standards and tax laws,” said Millan.

Initial inspections in this week’s sweeps reportedly found six shops lacked the licenses mandatory in the garment industry and also resulted in: confiscation of garments from three shops; citations for failure to have workers’ comp insurance in the amount of $50,000; seven instances of inaccurate time cards or no time cards resulting in $6,300 in citations; and a minimum wage citation totaling $19,800.

Team members use sweeps to educate workers and employers as they enforce the law. Inspectors encounter many obstacles, including language differences, fear of government and intimidation by shop owners, when attempting to interview workers.

Each team includes members who speak the language of most workers in a given area, including Spanish, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese, which reportedly helps break down trust barriers.

At the same time, inspectors educate shop owners on their responsibilities under the law. In California, regulations governing wages, hours and working conditions are laid out in the Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders, which must be posted in the workplace where employees can read them. Whether wages are paid based on time, task, piece rate, commission or other method of calculation, the amount of pay a worker receives cannot compute to less than the minimum wage for each hour of work.

Overtime wages must be paid at the rate of one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate or pay for all hours over eight per day (up to and including 12 hours), and for the first eight hours worked on the seventh consecutive day in a workweek.

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