Los Angeles Apparel’s factory has been ordered to shut down for now after more than 300 workers contracted the coronavirus and four died.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, inspectors found “flagrant” violations of mandatory public health infection control orders, and the company failed to comply with the department’s investigation of a reported COVID-19 outbreak. On Thursday, the Department of Public Health ordered the factory closed.
“The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Business owners and operators have a corporate, moral and social responsibility to their employees and their families to provide a safe work environment that adheres to all of the health officer directives — this responsibility is important, now more than ever, as we continue to fight this deadly virus.”
According to the health department, three Los Angeles Apparel workers died of COVID-19 in June, as well as one in early July. The department said it was notified of a potential outbreak at the factory on June 19 but that Los Angeles Apparel “failed to provide” a list of employees, despite numerous requests from health officials. Additionally, the department said it found “multiple violations” of social distancing requirements and infection control protocols after sending inspectors to the facility.
Los Angeles Apparel has been ordered to remain closed until it can show that the facility is in full compliance with public health mandates. According to the company, it has been “repeatedly” testing employees for COVID-19 for the past five weeks. Contradicting the health department’s report, Los Angeles Apparel claims it provided a list of employee infection rates “as soon as it could” and did not withhold any information.
“We absolutely respect the order to remain closed, and want to be clear that we reopened with written permission from the Department of Health who later changed their position,” the company wrote in a statement. “We are determined to do anything in our power to provide continued support to our employees and are happy to make any investment necessary to keep them safe at work.”
Los Angeles Apparel was founded in 2016 by Dov Charney, who also founded American Apparel. Charney was forced out of American Apparel over allegations of misconduct, including claims of misusing racial slurs against workers and sexually harassing employees, as well as misappropriating company funds.
Los Angeles has been among the regions to see a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The state of California has recorded upward of 300,000 cases — 40% of them in Los Angeles County — as well as record highs in hospitalizations and filled ICU beds.