If, like me, you like to pick up the inexpensive but still relatively cute and well-made offerings from your local Forever 21, you might want to know that their Christian demeanor falls apart under scrutiny. Workers of the chain are organizing a class-action lawsuit against their employer, claiming they've been forced to work through their legally mandated meal breaks and even after clocking out.
Despite the Bible verses printed on the bottoms of their bags, Forever 21 hasn't been looking too good in the ethics department lately. It's been on the receiving end of more than 50 lawsuits, with complaints ranging from intellectual property theft to terrible sweatshop conditions. I guess part of the reason they can keep their clothes so cheap is that they pinch pennies all the way down, paying their employees barely minimum wage and then keeping them busy even longer than they're supposed to.
The five current and former employees of the clothing chain claim they and their coworkers were forced to work through their breaks repeatedly. Retail employees are legally entitled to lunchtime, and writing off their breaks is a pretty big no-no when it comes to workers' rights. The employees also complain that they were subjected to an off-the-record daily bag check at the end of their shifts--a theft precaution that's pretty common in the industry, but that they really should have been paid for. It's all well and good to make sure that your workers aren't making off with the goods they're supposed to sell, but if you're forcing them to remain on the premises, you sort of have to pay the for it. Once they're clocked out, they should be able to go home.
We'll see how far this suit goes. It does seem to be getting harder and harder for employees to get class action lawsuits off the ground, which is troubling. The recent attack on Walmart on the part of its female employees shows just how much power the biggest corporate chains have to treat their workers unjustly. Since these employees probably won't be able to make too much of a dent in Forever 21's prosperity at the expense of its workers, I guess I'll do my part along with them and avoid the store from now on. I'm not a fan of wearing things made in sweatshops and I'd hate to think the people selling me clothes aren't being paid fairly to boot.