Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it is taking action against Forever 21, a popular retailer in Los Angeles and throughout the entire U.S., to force the retailer to hand over documents the department has been requesting since August as part of the department's investigation into "sweatshop-like conditions" at local factories.
The Department of Labor said that workplace violations are common in the garment industry, especially in the Los Angeles area and other parts of Southern California. The agency claims that it has evidence that Forever 21 has also violated workers' rights over the past several years. The retailer is accused of failing to pay workers overtime and failing to pay workers minimum wage.
Forever 21 is now being asked to provide the Department of Labor with records to show what workers have been receiving in pay for their hours worked. The company is also being asked to give the department other documents that outline the company's employment practices. The company claims that it will cooperate with the agency's requests, but the agency has been requesting this information since August.
According to the Department of Labor, more than a dozen vendors and manufacturers in California that supply Forever 21 with its clothing have been producing the clothing under "sweatshop-like conditions," with these conditions violating numerous labor laws and depriving workers of the pay that they are legally entitled to receive for their labor.
The department announced that it will aggressively investigate Forever 21 in order to make sure the company is held accountable for its violations and to make sure workers are properly compensated for their work. The agency has been investigating other claims of labor violations in the garment industry over the past few years. Since 2007, at least 1,500 labor violation cases have been investigated by the department. All of these cases were reported in Southern California. As a result of these investigations, workers have recovered more $11 million in back wages for employers' wage and overtime violations.
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with the case against Forever 21. If the company did commit wage and hour violations, the company could finally be required to properly compensate its workers who have been deprived of their rightful pay.
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Forever 21 investigated for vendors' alleged 'sweatshop' conditions," Shan Li, Oct. 29, 2012
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