Labor violations found at Urban Outfitters' suppliers

Posted: December 16, 2012

The U.S. Labor Department has sanctioned several Los Angeles garment contractors for sweatshop conditions while making wares for Urban Outfitters Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Forever 21 Inc., the company that owns T.J. Maxx and Marshall's (TJX Cos Inc.), and others.

In a sweep of a single building in the city's fashion district, Wage and Hour Division investigators found 10 garment contractors had violated minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping laws, such as paying workers less than the federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25, and California's $8 minimum wage, the agency said.

The investigation recovered $326,200 in back wages for 185 employees working for the subcontractors, who had been retained by manufacturers holding contracts with the retailers. The agency went public Thursday about its joint probe with California labor standards enforcement officials.

Workers were being paid less than $6.50 per hour, and were not paid federally mandated overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, according to the agency, whose investigators also found falsified time cards.

U.S. Labor Department spokeswoman Deanna Amaden said Friday that the investigation began Aug. 7 but involved work done on garments produced any time in the last two years. Workers had made women's tops for Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters under the label "Daydreamer" and through an intermediary named Bluebird & Co., Amaden said.

But it was unclear whether investigators determined if Urban Outfitters had been aware of the infractions. Urban Outfitters, which is based at the Navy Yard, designs and sells merchandise through not only its namesake brand but also through the Anthropologie, Free People and BHLDN brands.

Messages left Friday for Urban Outfitters general counsel Glen Bodzy were not returned.

"We have contacted Urban Outfitters a few times in the past two years as a result of investigations of garment contractors in Los Angeles," Amaden said.

Bilked workers were also making garments for Aldo Group Inc., Charlotte Russe Holding Inc., Dillard's Inc., Home Shopping Network (HSN Inc.), Susan Lawrence (Frasier Apparel Inc.), Ross Stores Inc., and Wet Seal Inc.


Contact Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431 or mpanaritis@phillynews.com or @panaritism on Twitter.

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