Term Paper: California Labor Laws the State

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[. . .] The wheels of justice are badly out of alignment when it comes to California employment law," said John H. Sullivan, president of the Civil Justice Association of California, which initiated the study (1996). "The outcome is that everyone is treated unfairly -- businesses go out of their way to avoid hiring people for good positions with benefits, and they turn to using temporary help. By rewarding frivolous job lawsuits, our civil justice system discourages employers from expanding their operations and creating more employment for everyone." study conducted by the California Employment Law Council revealed that California's strict labor laws have had a negative effect on the state's business climate. The study revealed that labor laws have resulted in the following (Sullivan, 1996):

53% of firms have experienced increased cost of screening and hiring job applicants.

51% of firms have reduced the termination of employees for good cause.

28% of firms have reduced employee earning and benefits.

27% of firms have resisted expanding in California.

The significance of these percentages is that they represent a sizable number of California businesses who believe the justice system is tilted unfairly against them," according to Sullivan.

Additional studies have revealed that California's labor laws have resulted in decreasing the state's potential employment by as many as 171,000 jobs between 1970 and 1990, and reducing potential income by almost $6 billion during the same period.

Apparel Industry

While many businesses have complained that California's labor laws are too harsh, these laws definitely are beneficial to workers in many industries that have taken advantage of them in the past.

For example, California is home to thousands of immigrants, many of who work in the apparel industry (Bonacich, 2000). While California's labor laws are designed to protect these employees, these workers suffer some of the worst conditions in the workplace earning the lowest wages and reaping the fewest benefits.

According to recent statistics approximately 12,000 immigrants are employed in the Los Angeles apparel industry, many of which earn between $350 and $1,000 in an entire month. Many of these laborers have reported instances of non-payment of wages.

Statistics show that of the 5,000 registered factories in Los Angeles where roughly 140,000 garment workers are employed, 67% violate minimum wage and overtime laws and 98% violate health and safety laws. The majority of garment workers is paid per piece and is only paid for what they produce. As a result, they earn less than the minimum wage.

In addition, it is estimated that apparel employers owe $73 million in back wages to garment workers.

For these employees, California's strict labor laws are necessary, as the state provides more attention and resources to ensure the rights of employees to fair wages, safe working conditions, and an efficient process to demand reimbursement for labor law violations.

Many of California's apparel manufacturers and contractors have argued that the states labor laws are unreasonable. However, legislators maintain that strict labor laws are crucial to California residents, particularly in the apparel industry, for a variety of reasons.

For example, labor laws reduce the possibility of sweatshops in California. According to recent research, California's garment industry is the largest in the country, pulling in $30 billion a year and employing 160,000 workers, many of whom are immigrants. This presents many opportunities for illegal labor practices, including sweatshops.

California labor laws explicitly target the apparel industry, stating that manufacturers are directly responsible for ensuring that the workers who sew their clothes get paid according to state laws.

The state law orders a "wage guarantee" in the garment industry so that apparel manufacturers and retailers ensure with their contractors that workers are paid minimum wage and overtime.

In addition, garment workers are entitled to receive liquidated damages for minimum wage and overtime violations if the manufacturer acted in bad faith, such as placing a contract price too low to enable the contractor to comply with minimum wage and overtime laws.

Recent California labor laws have expended civil liability for violators of state labor law by contractors to include garment manufacturers and retailers who sell a garment with a label they own in whole or part.

These laws also establish successor employer liability so that garment factories cannot shut down and reopen under a different name to avoid paying the wages of its former employees.

As a result of these new labor laws, the state of California has succeeded in shutting down many of the apparel industry's illegal operations, including sweatshops and taking advantage of immigrant workers.

Bibliography

Aspen Publishers Staff. 2002. California Employer's Guide: A Handbook of Employment Laws and Regulations. Aspen Publishers.

Bonacich, Edna. 2000. Behind the Label: Inequality in the Los Angeles Apparel Industry. University of California Press.

Eaton, Adrienne, Keefe,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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