Clothing Retailer Forever 21 Vendors Accused of Running “Sweatshops”

11/13/2012 // Los Angeles, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // Eric Grover // (press release)

Los Angeles, C.A. — Los Angeles clothing retailer Forever 21 is known for its inexpensive but trendy clothes. A number of its vendors are accused of violating labor laws as a result of being cheap when it comes to their employees, reports Los Angeles employment lawyer Eric Grover.

The violations were uncovered as part of the Labor Department’s ongoing attack on the Southern California garment industry, which has fostered “repeated and widespread” violations of federal labor laws.

The investigation found that there were “significant” violations of federal minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping laws by vendors supplying Forever 21, the Los Angeles Times revealed. Forever 21 vendors have been accused of fostering “sweatshop-like conditions.”

Forever 21 was reportedly served a subpoena in August to track down data substantiating the alleged vendor violations, but the company refused to comply. Now the Labor Department is attempting to compel the retailer to cooperate.

“When companies like Forever 21 refuse to comply with subpoenas, they demonstrate a clear disregard for the law,” Ruben Rosalez, regional administrator for the department’s West division, said in a Thursday statement. “The Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available to recover workers’ wages and hold employers accountable.”

The retailer maintains that it has attempted to cooperate by offering to meet with the agency, as well as “promptly responding” to the subpoena with information that resolved the Labor Department’s allegations. In a statement issued by Forever 21, the retailer asserted that they are “surprised and disappointed that the department declined to meet before filing this action but looks forward to working with them to address any issues.”

But the labor problems don’t stop at Forever 21; over the last five years the Labor Department has investigated more than 1,500 cases in the area and recovered over $11 million in back wages for about 11,000 workers. The Department cites that the main causes of labor issues are due to workers being paid a piecemeal rate for every garment produced rather than by the hour, which is typically low enough to be in violation of federal minimum wage standards.

“No company should feel that they are immune from the labor laws enacted by this country to maintain a fair and safe working environment,” says Eric Grover, a Los Angeles employment lawyer. “Regardless of whether the company itself or a group of its manufacturers or suppliers fails to comply with the wage and hour laws, they should be held accountable and be obligated to comply with Labor Department investigations.

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