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California labor commissioner fines illegal garment businesses

California labor commissioner fines illegal garment businesses
Low-wage garment, car wash, restaurant and other workers outside Los Angeles City Hall in 2015 urged city leaders to form an anti-wage theft bureau and adopt strong enforcement measures. (Patrick T. Fallon/ For The Los Angeles Times)

Eighteen garment companies received fines of more than $682,000 for violating labor laws, state regulators announced. The businesses, all based in Los Angeles, were inspected this month by the California labor commissioner's office.

The inspections revealed that the companies did not have workers' compensation insurance, failed to give employees itemized time sheets showing hours on the job, or did not properly register with the state. State law requires that all garment manufacturers register with the state in order to do business.

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"These illegal entities should take note: We will shine a light on the underground economy, and those who contract with unregistered contractors will also be held accountable," said Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su in an emailed statement.

Investigators with Su's office seized 85 bags of clothing, worth $155,457, at nine of the businesses. The clothes will be distributed to "homeless and domestic violence shelters" across Los Angeles, the office said.

Los Angeles has long been a mecca for illicit garment companies, which often pay workers below the minimum wage, doctor their hours and refuse to pay for overtime, several investigations have shown. In the last five years alone, companies in the area have denied workers $11.7 million in wages they were owed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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