Calif. DIR Estimates More than $1M in Civil Penalties to be Handed Out After Garment Shop Sweeps

December 8, 2004

The California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) estimates its Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) and its Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) will assess more than $1 million in civil penalties to garment employers in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas who reportedly failed to comply with state wage, hour and safety laws.

In a multi-agency sweep that included the Employment Development Department (EDD), the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) and the California Conservation Corps (CCC), the state last week uncovered violations that included failing to comply with the state’s minimum wage law, failing to provide wage statements, failing to keep adequate time records and failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

“Our job is to enforce the laws protecting employees and educate employers about their responsibilities,” said Jose Millan, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency deputy secretary for enforcement.

During the sweeps – unannounced inspections to check for employer compliance with state and federal workplace rules – enforcement teams focus on garment contractors and manufacturers improperly paying workers and exposing them to health and safety hazards.

“DLSE investigators issued more than 50 citations for violations of wage and hour laws that total over $600,000,” said Millan. “At the same time, we were able to provide them with information on what to do to come into compliance with the law so they’re protecting their employees.”

To assist employers in complying with the law, investigators educate them on how to do so, and advise them of their obligations to employees. DLSE inspections at 32 shops found: 20 instances of inadequate time records; 13 of not providing pay stubs to employees; nine without mandatory licenses; five without workers’ comp insurance; five not paying minimum wage; three not paying overtime; and one child labor violation.

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 of 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.

Garment shop owners must also comply with the safety and health regulations. In inspections at 25 shops, Cal/OSHA investigators found 134 safety violations, which they estimate will total nearly $500,000 in fines, including: electrical hazards, unguarded belts and pulleys, inadequate fire extinguishers; multiple users of tagging guns; use of hazardous chemicals without personal protective equipment; unguarded fan openings; and lack of injury and illness prevention programs.

“There is no good reason for an employer to lack an effective injury and illness prevention program,” said Millan. “Cal/OSHA offers free consultative assistance to employers who need help, and any employer working with Cal/OSHA’s consultation service is not cited for violations found during consultation.”

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