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Apparel Company Vows to Comply With L.A. Subpoena (Corrected)

Aug. 6, 2020, 7:23 PM; Updated: Aug. 7, 2020, 4:08 AM

The City of Los Angeles filed a petition to enforce compliance with a subpoena issued to garment maker Los Angeles Apparel regarding its pay and sick leave policies after more than 300 employees in a downtown factory tested positive for Covid-19, the city alleged.

The petition follows a recent order by the Department of Public Health that the company, which recently switched to making face masks, cease operations.

The city of Los Angeles, through its petition filed Wednesday in state court, seeks to enforce the fashion retailer’s compliance with a subpoena dated July 16 and served the following day, for documentation on how many employees work at the factory and its compliance with local sick leave laws.

The subpoena was issued to determine whether LA Apparel is complying with the city’s Minimum Wage Ordinance and whether additional action is needed to protect potentially vulnerable employees from Covid-19.

A statement by the company said that “Los Angeles Apparel will be complying with the City’s subpoena. The company has followed the Mayoral order for Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and all Sick Pay rules that apply in the City of Los Angeles. We intend to cooperate fully with any routine and reasonable informational requests from the City Attorney or any inquiring agency.”

The statement added, “We emphasize that at no time has the City accused Los Angeles Apparel of non-compliance.”

An email exchange viewed by Bloomberg Law indicated that the city attorney’s office wouldn’t seek ex parte relief against the company, given its promise to comply with the subpoena by August 14.

An April order issued by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti required employers with 500 or more workers to provide qualifying employees with paid sick leave of up to 80 hours related to the coronavirus.

The city said in its petition that workers in the garment industry are often paid below minimum wage and denied paid leave. They also are frequently forced to work in crowded conditions, and many workers’ undocumented status makes them afraid to complain, the petition said.

The county’s public health department ordered the factory to shut down operations in June, according to the petition.

The order stemmed from violations of mandatory public health infection control orders.

In June, the county was notified of a potential outbreak at the plant by a healthcare provider, and an inspection revealed a failure to implement social distancing and spread-prevention policies, including the use of cardboard as a barrier between workers, according to a statement from the county released in early July.

LA Apparel, which was started by American Apparel founder Dov Charney, advertises its clothing as being sweatshop free, and ethically made in the U.S.

Neither the city attorney nor the health department responded to a request for comment.

The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office represents the city. Seddigh Arbetter LLP represents LA Apparel.

The case is City of Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Apparel, Cal. Super. Ct., No. 20STCP02482, 8/5/20.

(Corrected to clarify that action by city was a petition to enforce earlier subpoena, not a separate lawsuit against LA Apparel, and adds comment from company and information regarding city attorney's posture.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Maeve Allsup in San Francisco at mallsup@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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