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An overview of the Garment Worker Protection Act

The Garment Worker Protection Act ensures industry workers receive fair payment and offers means for them to pursue reimbursement for violations.

Thriving in California, the garment industry employs part-time, full-time and contracted workers. Garment manufacturers cut, sew, process, assemble, alter and repair articles of wearing apparel. Historically, those employed in this industry have unfortunately commonly fallen victim to violations of their rights to fair pay and safe working conditions.

Employees in the garment industry should understand their rights to help protect their interests in the workplace.

Paying a piece rate

Effective January 1, 2022, the state’s Garment Worker Protection Act took effect with the purpose of ensuring fair pay for garment manufacturing employees. Under the act, employers must pay workers in this field an hourly rate. This rate must meet or exceed the state’s minimum wage of $15 per hour. Further, they should also receive overtime wages where applicable.

Prior to this change, many garment manufacturing employers paid workers a piece rate. As such, rather than getting paid per hour for their work, employees would receive a set amount per article of apparel they put out.

Giving incentives

While the state does not allow employers to pay workers by the piece, the Garment Worker Protection Act does allow incentives. Provided they adhere to the appropriate guidelines, employers may offer workers bonuses for performance-based or other goals and accomplishments.

Filing a claim for unpaid wages

Should employers fail to pay workers the appropriate wages, employees have paths to seek reimbursement. The state’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement ensures that workers are not receiving substandard compensation. Workers may file a claim with the agency against the contractors who hire them, as well as the manufacturers of the garments they produced.

Workers have up to three years to file claims for unpaid minimum wage under the Garment Worker Protection Act. After filing a claim, workers will have an interview with a deputy labor commissioner assigned to their cases. The deputy will identify possible defendants and aid in reaching a resolution during a settlement conference.

If workers and their employers cannot reach an agreement during the settlement conference, the claim will move to a hearing. At this time, they may present evidence, such as the hours they worked and the pay they received, or have witnesses testify to support their claims. The hearing officer will issue a decision, which may include orders for employers to repay workers for wages they shorted them.

Working with a legal representative

Employees in the garment industry often work hard, long hours. Like all workers in the state, they have the entitlement to receive fair compensation for their time and effort. Should their employers violate their rights, they may consider options such as legal action to see such wrongs redressed.