The city of Los Angeles has filed a legal action against coronavirus-plagued Los Angeles Apparel seeking speedy enforcement of a subpoena to produce information regarding its sick leave policies and number of employees.
The Los Angeles Superior Court petition states that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has reported more than 300 confirmed coronavirus cases among Los Angeles Apparel’s employees.
“Tragically, four of the company’s employees have died from the virus,” the petition filed Wednesday states. “The scope of the LA Apparel outbreak was massive.”
A representative for the South Los Angeles company, which pivoted to producing face masks amid the pandemic, did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
According to the petition, garment workers are often paid well below the minimum wage and frequently do not receive pay for breaks or overtime. They also work in crowded conditions, are often undocumented and many times are afraid to speak out about the conditions under which they must work.
“As a result, these workers are vulnerable to employer mistreatment and extremely dependent not only on their jobs, but also on sick leave,” the petition states.
To assess Los Angeles Apparel’s compliance with the city’s sick leave laws, the company was served with a subpoena July 17, the petition states. However, the firm did not turn over anything by the subpoena’s return date of July 31, nor did management serve any written objections to the requests, the petition states.
The city offered to extend the subpoena’s deadline to Aug. 14, but Los Angeles Apparel has refused to commit to provide the requested documents and information before Aug. 31, the petition states.
The city, and Los Angeles Apparel’s workers, should not have to wait that long, according to the petitioner.
“In the midst of this pandemic, access to sick leave benefits and thus the ability to stay home when suffering a potential infection is literally a matter of life and death,” according to the petition. “The city must immediately receive the materials sought by the subpoena so that it can determine whether LA Apparel is providing its employees with paid sick leave in compliance with city law and, if necessary, take steps to protect those workers.”
On June 27, county health officials ordered operations shut down at Los Angeles Apparel after inspectors reported “flagrant violations” of mandatory public health infection control orders.
The petition further states that according to those same health officials, the company violated the agency’s order by reopening with what were apparently new employees, causing the department on July 9 to again order the firm to cease operations until critical public health measures were implemented.
Company founder Dov Charney has denied that the company did not protect its workers and inform them of positive cases and has asserted there’s no problem in his factory.
“There was no outbreak here,” he told Business Insider, contending that a 15% infection rate among his staff was commensurate with the rate in South Los Angeles as a whole.
“I’m not alleging conspiracy,” he told the publication in late July. “I’m alleging that certain people at the (health) department are misleading the public because they’re looking for a political win.”