South L.A. garment factory workers to get back pay and overtime in settlement

Workers at a suspected sweatshop in South Los Angeles will receive back pay and overtime, and an independent monitor will scrutinize the factory's activities in a settlement reached Wednesday between the owners and the city attorney's office.

City Atty. Carmen Trutanich's office sued the company's owner-operator for allegedly failing to pay employees overtime and maintaining sweatshop conditions in the garment factory.

The settlement will bring long-overdue compensation for unpaid overtime to employees and will require an independent monitor at the factory to oversee compliance with workplace laws, city attorneys said.

The owners agreed to pay for an independent monitor, the first time a domestic garment manufacturer has consented to do so, said Assistant City Atty. Jim Colbert.

The lawsuit filed in July 2009 alleged that Seventeen Inc. and its predecessor, Q&I Inc., along with their owners and operators, required employees to work 12-hour shifts, sometimes two or three shifts in a row, six days a week without overtime pay or rest breaks.

City lawyers alleged the company falsified time and payroll records to conceal the underpayment of wages.

The suit alleged hazardous and unhealthy workplace conditions, including unsanitary bathrooms without working plumbing or clean water, cockroach and rodent infestation and exposure to harmful chemicals and fine fabric dust during the production of garments.

The lawsuit also alleged that access to exits was often blocked by debris, and exits were locked at night, leaving night-shift workers with no way to exit the property in case of emergency.

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