The following story is submitted as a reminder for why modern worker-protection laws exist and are enforced in the United States. It contains echoes from America's not-all-that-distant past, and easily enough conjures up images of yesteryear's workplaces commonly marked by filth, insensitivity to employees' working conditions and, most of all, employers' greed.
The problem, though, is that it relates to an existing Los Angeles company and the kind of 21st-century employer commonly depicted in a Dickens novel. Luckily it has a happy ending.
An early September legal settlement between the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office and Seventeen Inc. - a South Los Angeles garment factory owner - and related parties will provide workers of a suspected sweatshop with back pay and unpaid overtime. It will also require that the company submit to an onsite independent monitor to ensure ongoing compliance with workplace laws.
The July 2009 lawsuit against Seventeen Inc. alleged that its workers were forced to work 12-hour shifts, sometimes several in a row, six days a week - all without rest breaks or overtime pay. The suit also stated that the factory bathrooms lacked plumbing and clean water; that workers suffered from harmful chemicals and fabric dust; that the factory was infested by rodents and cockroaches; that exits were locked at night, leaving no way out for night workers confronting an emergency; and that the exits were often blocked by debris.
The City Attorney's Office also charged that the company tried to hide its underpayments by falsifying payroll records and workers' timesheets.
Related Resource: articles.latimes.com "South L.A. garment factory workers to get back pay and overtime in settlement" September 2, 2010