A group of 30 employees is suing Alexander Wang for running an alleged sweatshop in New York City’s Chinatown. Filed last month in Queens County Supreme Court, the $450 million lawsuit claims that the award-winning designer violated New York State labor laws such as compensation for overtime and minimum wages, according to WWD on Tuesday. Representatives for Wang have since denied the accusations, which include forcing employees to work 16-hour days in an stifling, windowless 200-square-foot room with 15 others. The plaintiffs are asking for $50 million for each of the suit’s nine charges, chief of which are labor law violations, breach of agreement, and “unjust enrichment.” Wang, who made his name designing slouchy, pull-on-and-go garments, reportedly earned $25 million in 2011.
The lead plaintiff, 56-year-old Wenyu Lu, claimed to work 84 hours a week at Wang’s factory at 386 Broadway, resulting in work-related illnesses such as eye injuries and kidney stones. Lu also described passing out at his station after working 25 hours without any breaks, requiring hospitalization for several days.
The lead plaintiff claimed to work 84 hours a week at Wang’s factory, resulting in eye injuries and kidney stones.
The three-year employee was ultimately fired on February 16 after he complained about the unhealthy environment and applied for workers’ compensation for his injuries, according to his lawyer, Ming Hai, an employment-law veteran. “Bad labor conditions are everywhere in the Asian garment community. It’s horrible,” Hai told WWD. “A lot of the workers are new immigrants and they don’t speak English. They work long hours. It’s like a new kind of slavery.”
But a spokeswoman for Wang says he has yet to be served with legal papers. “The company takes its obligations to comply with the law very seriously, including the relevant wage and hour regulations, the payment of overtime to eligible employees and having a safe working environment for all of our employees,” she said. “We will vehemently defend any allegations to the contrary.”
Wang is innocent until proven guilty, of course. In an industry that values appearance above everything, however, the alleged abuse doesn’t look good.