Former workers in a New York garment factory that produced merchandise for Caché Inc. have filed a lawsuit against the specialty retailer, alleging the company was aware, or should have been aware, of their employer’s labor law violations.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The six plaintiffs worked between 1996 and March 2008 at the business predecessors of a Garment District manufacturer operating as Metro Star Inc., according to a complaint filed last month in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. The workers alleged the factory’s owners failed to pay overtime, and sometimes did not pay minimum wage because of their per-piece compensation policy, among other violations. After complaining, the plaintiffs said ownership told them the factory was closing and laid them off. The facility soon reopened under its new name.

“The March 2008 reincorporation and relocation of the factory followed a pattern and practice during plaintiffs’ employment, in which the factory would periodically shut down and open under a different corporate name and in a different location….This process was designed to avoid the factory’s tax and other legal obligations,” according to the complaint.

The workers said the factory produced for sourcing firm Adrienne Victoria Designs, which Caché bought in 2007. Adrienne Victoria Designs had been the retailer’s largest supplier before the purchase. The complaint said: “Beginning in 2003 or 2004, the factory worked almost exclusively for Caché, either directly or through Adrienne Victoria.” The workers contended Caché knew or should have known about working conditions.

“Caché and Adrienne Victoria contracted with the factory at prices too low to allow for all workers to earn the minimum wage,” according to court papers. In addition, “the volume of work that was given to the factory obviously required overtime.”

A Caché spokesman said the company was aware of the suit but does not comment on pending litigation. “Caché takes its obligations to comply with all federal and state laws seriously,” he said. A representative of Metro Star said Tuesday that as of March 2008 it has been a different company with a different owner.

The workers are seeking their reinstatement and restoration of missed pay, punitive and compensatory damages, legal fees and other, unspecified remedies.

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