The U.S. Department of Labor has found that more than 1,500 Southern California garment workers are owned over $3 million in unpaid wages. In accordance with a year-long survey of 221 Los Angeles-based companies, unpaid wages amount to an average of $1,900 per worker. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division’s enforcement efforts have uncovered that suppliers directly connected with Nasty Gal, Macy's, Nordstrom and JC Penney, among others, not only fail to pay its laborers below minimum wage sums, but also force them to toil away in workplaces with "all the features of a sweatshop," said David Weil, administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division. Sewing employees, for instance, were paid 9 cents per piece of clothing stitched — a rate that often falls below minimum wage. At other garment factories, the clock keeping tabs on sewing workers' hours was regularly unplugged.
According to the Wage and Hour Division's report, minimum wage and overtime violations are typically high in the apparel industry. Department of Labor investigators found violations in nearly 90 percent of more than 1,600 cases in Southern California over the last five years, which led to more than $15 million in recovered wages for nearly 12,000 workers. Weil further noted: “Fierce competition in the garment industry leads many contract shops to lower the cost of their services, frequently at the expense of workers’ wages. When workers don’t receive the wages to which they are legally entitled, they can’t afford the basics, like food, rent and child care.”
According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, garment and other workers must be paid at least the national minimum wage ($7.25) for all hours worked, plus time and a half for overtime. The minimum wage in California is $9 per hour. Moreover, the FLSA requires employers maintain accurate time and payroll records.