California Conducts Multi-Agency Sweeps of Garment Shops

Dec. 7, 2004
California Labor agencies are conducting sweeps 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.

The sweeps are being conducted by 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),

"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 the sweeps 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 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.

Employers in need of Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders or other workplace postings may order them on line at, click on workplace postings in the left navigation bar.

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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