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SoCal Factories Making Clothes For Forever 21 And Ross Found To Be Paying Way Below Minimum Wage

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A Forever 21 stores in Connecticut. (Photo by Mike Mozart via the Creative Commons)
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Southern California factories that produce clothing for popular chains like Forever 21 and Nordstrom were found to be paying their workers below minimum wage, the U.S. Department of Labor announced on Wednesday. From April to July of this year, the Labor Department investigated 77 randomly selected factories in the region and found enough violations to total $1.1 million in back wages for 865 workers, reports KPCC. The stores whose clothing was tied to the most violations were the budget fashion brands Ross, Forever 21 and T.J. Maxx. Ross topped the list with their clothing found at 11 factories.

Not all of the violators were making clothes for budget labels. Both Macy's and Nordstrom were found to have ties to factories that paid below minimum wage.

According to the L.A. Times, the workers made an average of $7 per hour, with some as low as $4 per hour. California's minimum wage is $10 per hour. Factories were also found to be not paying for overtime.

Despite these findings, the retailers themselves will not be penalized by the Feds. The stores do not directly employ the garment manufacturers, instead using them as suppliers. "This business model has shielded them from any legal responsibility," Ruben Rosalez, Regional Administrator for the Department of Labor, told the Times. Officials tell the Times they met with Ross and Forever 21 executives to discuss better monitoring practices.

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This is not the first time L.A.-based Forever 21 has hit with accusations of wage violations. In 2001, 19 workers from six different factories sued Forever 21 over unfair labor practices. In 2012, five store employees sued over unpaid wages.