California’s Garment Industry: A Quick Overview of Labor Laws

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California’s Garment Industry: A Quick Overview of Labor Laws

Recent news and conversations about Zara workers leaving notes in clothes to denounce the fact that they had not been paid for their labor got us thinking it might be time for a little reminder of California’s garment industry’s labor laws. Therefore, here’s a little primer on everything from wages to hiring garment industry homeworkers.

This post is meant to be taken as general information, not legal advice. Contact an attorney if you have any questions regarding labor laws in California.

Before hiring for the first time

As an employer, there are multiple steps you should be taking before hiring your first employees, but some requirements are garment industry specific. For instance, you must register as a California garment industry employer with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), on top of registering with the Employment Development Department, as you normally would.

You then must agree, in writing, to implement a few acts and programs such as a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program, an Emergency Action Plan, and an Employee Training Program.


Your employees must be paid no less than the state minimum wage, which is currently at $10.50 USD/hour (and possibly higher depending on which California city your employee works in). While we know that remuneration per piece is quite frequent in the garment industry, the minimum wage must still be respected, which means that you must ensure that your employees, regardless of how they’re paid, make $10.50 USD/hour at the end of the week.

As for overtime, your employees must be paid 1.5 times the regular rate for the time worked over 8 hours in one day and twice the regular rate for time worked over 12 hours a day.


Since January 1st, 2015, California businesses are liable to workers supplied by labor contractors. This means businesses are now responsible for their contractor’s employees’ unpaid wages or lack of compensation insurance coverage under section 2810.3 of the California Labor Code.

You should also be wary of who you are doing business with, as garment industry employers who contract with entities that are not registered with the DLSE are jointly liable for the unregistered employers’ labor law violations.


We’ve written about garment industry homeworkers before on the Law on the Runway blog, so you can go read that post if you need in-depth information or if you would like to know more about hiring homeworkers in other states.

In California, it is illegal to distribute garment industry work directly to homeworkers. This interdiction includes all garments, whether made by hands or with a machine. Keep in mind that taskforce investigators will seize all garments made from home as well as all the material distributed to homeworkers.

As with all Law on the Runway posts, please use this as general information, not as legal advice. If you have any questions regarding federal or state labor laws in regards to the garment industry, you may email