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State's Garment Industry Sees Rise in Labor Violations for Quarter

Apparel: California tops the list with 72 incidents, U.S. says, while New York follows with only 22. A Vernon-based sewing shop was cited most often.

November 24, 1998|GEORGE WHITE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Labor Department said Monday that minimum-wage and overtime violations in California's apparel industry have risen.

The federal agency said that during the quarter ended in June, California led the nation with 72 violations, 50 more than second-ranked New York. California had 39 the previous three months.

The department said the increase was partly due to the fact that it conducted more investigations in California--101 compared with 58 in the previous three-month period.

But a department spokeswoman said that the percentage of noncompliance with wage and hour rules in Southern California is comparable to the high levels of 1996.

"We have a lot of work to do, considering these numbers," said Suzanne Seiden, acting deputy administrator of the department's wage and hour division in Washington.

The largest violator in California was Vernon-based Jeans Compostela, a sewing shop that supplied clothing to San Francisco-based retail chain Esprit de Corp and to two manufacturers--RSV Sport Inc. of Commerce and Los Angeles-based Private Label Industries.

The department said that Jeans Compostela failed to pay its 197 employees for two weeks during the three-month survey period.

Esprit, a marketer of trendy women's clothing, said it was unaware of the violations until notified by the Labor Department.

"We have a long-standing and sincere commitment to compliance with labor laws," said Esprit Vice President Christopher Nordquist.

"We're extremely concerned with any violation of labor laws," he said.

Nordquist said Esprit has a program for monitoring subcontractors in place.

An attorney for RSV said it terminated its contract with Jeans Compostela, which subsequently went out of business.

RSV has hired Jeans Compostela's work force and provided back pay of $197,000, said Stan Levy, attorney for RSV.

A representative of Private Label Industries couldn't be reached for comment.

The department said that it imposed $86,955 in civil fines on California firms and recovered $346,656 in back wages for 1,010 workers during the quarter.

The agency issues quarterly reports to inform retailers and consumers about garment contractors that violate the law and manufacturers doing business with them.

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