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XOXO Sued by Contractor's Unpaid Garment Workers

November 22, 2000|MARLA DICKERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Twelve Los Angeles garment workers are suing XOXO Clothing Co. for back wages and damages, claiming a contractor hired by XOXO to sew apparel for the popular young women's clothing label stiffed them for six weeks' wages.

The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles claims Commerce-based XOXO has repeatedly violated federal labor standards by hiring contractors who flout wage-and-hour laws. Under federal law, manufacturers can be held accountable for labor violations committed by contractors working for them.

The workers are seeking back wages and damages totaling nearly $50,000 from XOXO, according to Christina Chung of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, which is representing the workers.

According to the lawsuit, the employees worked for Martinez & Sons Sportswear, a downtown Los Angeles contractor that was hired to sew garments for XOXO. Over a six-week period this summer, the suit alleges, the workers put in six-day weeks for a total of 40 hours a week, but were never paid.

XOXO attorney Jeffrey Gersh said the company is willing to make good on the contractor's obligations. He said XOXO is now working with the Labor Department to settle the matter.

"If contractors aren't complying with the law, we want them out of our system," Gersh said. "We're trying to ensure that these employees are paid."

But Muneer Ahmad of the APALC said the organization is pursuing legal action to ensure that XOXO pays the workers damages as well as back wages. The Labor Department has cited XOXO six times since 1996 for wage-and-hour-law infractions committed by its contractors.

"We want to deter them from using sweatshop labor," Ahmad said. "Ensuring they pay penalties is the only way to do that."

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