Philadelphia Employment Law News

Is the Alexander Wang 'Sweatshop' Really Illegal?

From sweatshop to runway? Fashion designer Alexander Wang is accused of running a New York Chinatown mill to produce his high style eponymous clothing line.

In a $50 million Alexander Wang sweatshop lawsuit, the designer is alleged to have forced 30 workers to work 16 hour days without overtime pay, reports the New York Post. One worker says he was even hospitalized after working 25 hours straight without a break and passed out. He said he worked those hours because he was threatened with termination.

The worker was eventually fired anyway.

These work conditions sound horrible and is something you would expect overseas and not in Manhattan, but is it really illegal?

Just looking at the claimed wage and hour violations, the plaintiffs probably would have no claim had this suit been brought in Pennsylvania and under state law. That's right for all you put-upon workers, you can usually be forced to work days on end without any overtime or rest breaks under Pennslyvania law.

Doesn't sound too fair, does it?

Unlike more progressive states like New York and California, Pennsylvania law generally provides no protections for workers as far as daily overtime, mandatory days off work, or work breaks. For instance, in Pennsylvania, you can earn overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week, but working over eight hours in a day will not get you any overtime until you exceed 40 hours for the week. 

The Alexander Wang sweatshop lawsuit accuses the designer of running his manufacturing business in an illegal manner. Had this happened in Philly, at least some of the charges probably wouldn't violate state law. Luckily for the plaintiffs in the suit, New York law is different.

But while the law may or may not regulate his behavior, consumers who feel angry can ultimately penalize Alexander Wang by choosing to patronize another designer.

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