Studying for the California garment exam

Kind of off topic but pertaining to employment law, Yahoo posted an article today about five reasons one can be fired for lifestyle choices, leaving one without recourse. All states except Montana and Arizona are “at will” states. At will means someone can be fired for no reason at all.

Ellen (thank you!) sent me the study materials used to prepare for the California garment manufacturer’s licensing exam. I’m not linking to her in case she wasn’t supposed to do that. Having had time to look over the information, I don’t know why they don’t post it to their website. This would save paper and educate lots of people about labor law in general. I realize state laws vary but if someone wanted an orientation to labor law while in the research process of considering the responsibilities of hiring, this would be a good start (California is picky). Ellen also put an asterisk on the materials she says from where the exam questions were taken. It is because I adore you and want you to start your enterprises with the utmost integrity that I won’t tell you which these were.

The first booklet (blue cover) is thirty pages and printed in six point font making for difficult reading. It is comprised of excerpts of The laws relating to the time, manner and payment of wages. Two pages are a useful FAQ cross referencing questions to the pertinent section of law. This is also on the web and while it’s prettier, cleaner and easier to read, it’s not question guided from the main page, something I liked in the booklet.

I wouldn’t think you’d need to memorize this section but you should read it and probably first. Information from this booklet is reiterated in the other materials so the sections you’re most likely to be tested on, will be reinforced. Repetition is the key. After you’re done reading all the material and you notice something has been repeated three or four times, I’d think that’s something you’ll find on the exam. I don’t have the exam so I wouldn’t know, this is basic test psychology.

The second booklet (both are 5.5″ x 8.5″) has a white cover and is titled Rules and Regulations Garment Manufacturing Industry. This one is in 10 pt. font and is 54 pages long. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have a table of contents, it just dives right in so read up. At a casual glance, I see that if you don’t have a license, the state of California will also confiscate garments, inputs and the means of production (machines etc) as NJ and NY do. It’s my understanding they do this as a last resort. Make no mistake, they will lock you out but they’ll give you the chance to get legal before resorting to confiscation. You should find a place to keep this little booklet handy. It details your rights under the law, possible penalties and procedures.

On page 34, I find a fee schedule. Contractors with under $100,000 in receipts pay $250. For up to half a million in receipts, it’s $350 and so on (four levels). I didn’t know they had a sliding scale. For manufacturers (you, yes, you) the $750 is for sales under half a million. For half a million up to three million, it’s $1,000. There’s four levels of fees, the highest fee being $2,500 for over seven million in receipts. This is gross receipts in case you wonder.

The third, fourth and fifth sections of materials are 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper stapled together. The first is Study Materials for Occupational Safety and Health Examination. This is four and a half single sided pages, so it’s not much reading. This does however, sport that six point font the state of California seems to be so fond of.

The fourth piece is Workplace Injury & Illness Prevention Program for non-high hazard employers. Somebody must have hired a graphic artist for this one, it’s sporting eight point sans serif font. Oh my; it’s as though they gone out of their way to employ strategies designed to slow your reading speed.This one is nine pages long, the first four are a checklist (mostly), the last four are forms. Forms are always handy. The first three forms will provide guidance as to how an inspector will review your workplace. One form is for record keeping for you to track worker safety training. Nifty. I imagine that’s best done during orientation. The very last page is a flyer for the Cal/OSHA Consultation Program, listing satellite offices and phone numbers.

The last piece of edu materials is SUMMARY of Some Basic California and Federal Employment Requirements for GARMENT INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS. This one is 27 single sided pages with 12 point font but don’t get too excited about being able to read this one just yet. I don’t know what font this is (Bookman Old Style?) but the kerning between characters leaves much to be desired considering these paragraphs aren’t justified. Complain complain, I know but I have to have some fun with this. There’s plenty of white space but the 3/8″ margins (really!) cause you to scan from side to side more than humans are used to doing while reading so you can lose your place finding the next line.

The summary has a nicely organized table of contents (with multi-layer headings) with page numbers. It is strictly as advertised, a summary of all the laws, rules and regulations pertaining to garment manufacturing. Each topic is addressed succinctly with citation and source for further information directly underneath. These sources are found in either of the two booklets or on the DSLE website. I think you could use this last piece as a pre-test for the exam as it seems to be quite comprehensive.

Hope this material was helpful in reducing any lingering text anxiety out there. You may also wish to review these previous entries:

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  1. Esther says:

    Utah and Idaho are “at will” states too. Idaho can be tricky because there are a few unions which may provide some protection from being fired. The teacher’s union is very strong and so are some of the trades. However, 90% of available employment doesn’t have any union involvement. “At will” also means you can quit for any reason and at any time.

  2. Amy says:

    Thanks for the last 5 or so entries…I never tire of reading updates regarding sizing, cotton crops, style numbers, OR financing. Great information, as always!

  3. Claire-Marie Costanza says:

    I’ve lived in California for (many, many) years. Although California is an “at will” state, once a employee looses his job, the regulations around unemployment benefits become rather interesting.

    If you were fired for cause, you don’t get unemployment benefits. If your employment was terminated because you were laid off, also called a “Redution In Force” (known as being RIFfed) then you are eligable for unemployment benefits. (Doing a legal RIF of a large number of employees, at least in the high tech companies I’ve worked at, requires the company to make certain arrangements with the state first.) As an employer, how do you prove “at cause” firing? Best way I know: By having published policies and documenting the employee’s violation of those policies.

    If the employer said he fired the employee for cause, the employee can appeal with the California EDD (Employment Development Department) and make a case that employer’s reasons were not valid, and the EDD may decide in the employee’s favor (or not). This has happened to more than one person I know, the most recent my friend working in a small office who was fired because the employer is almost broke and has been authorizing bill payments at literally the very last hour possible. He missed a last-minute payment and fired her because she didn’t “remind him” — which actually, she had. Very likely, the EDD will find in her favor. On the other hand, my ex-husband was fired after being stopped for drunk driving while driving a company vehicle. The EDD did NOT find in his favor because such actions violated company policies.

    So, firing “at will” is legal in CA, and the employee may not be able to sue for the firing. However, it’s not neccessarily a “free ride” all around for the employer, either.

    Disclaimer: DO check with the State of California for all the legal details. I know what I know about CA unemployment benefits as an employee who has worked in high tech for years and has lost count of how many times I’ve been RIFfed and applied for and recieved unemployement benefits. I’ve had more than one employer hire me back as a contractor – CA can get prickly about this practice, depending how you do it; one contract-hire-back employer was investigated. Note that I’m a tech writer, not a garment worker, so the specific regulations regarding garment workers may be/are probably different.


  4. Claire-Marie, what you are writing sounds like the employer pays unemployment benefits to the laid-off person? Interesting.

    Where I am (Canada) the employee pays Employment Insurance premiums to the federal government which are deducted at source from the employee’s paycheque. When the employee is fired for cause, it’s the same thing as in California: no benefits. When the employee is simply laid off for lack of work, the employee gets benefits from the federal employment insurance program. The relationship with the employer no longer exists.

  5. Laura J says:

    I just took the test about 10 days ago and I believe I passed because they sent out an inspector to my house today for a visit. The test was fairly easy with the exception of the question about overtime for piecework. If I had employees, they’d be happy because I would have overpaid them $70! The inspector went over the question with me because I asked (and had already taken the test), but I am still a bit confused over the answer. She said that you need to get 75% of the questions correct to pass which should be easy if you study the materials sent.

    I realize that now I am considered a “manufacturer”, but the $750 fee is hard to take simply because because in reality I am a small retailer. Hopefully it will be worth it in the end.

  6. Claire-Marie Costanza says:

    In California, the employer (and only an employer) pays unemployment insurance premiums to the state for his employees. Unemployment insurance is not something that a person can purchase for him/herself. Certainly an independent contractor cannot purchase unemployment insurance for himself (think about it – who determines when a independent contractor is unemployed?)

    Never having been an employer, I don’t know exactly what the motivation is to NOT have the state pay out unemployment benefits on your behalf, but I’ve observed this is the case; when an ex-employee files an appeal with the EDD, the employers make an effort to fight to have the firing be deemed “for cause”. A quick scan of CA gov’t websites did not bring quick enlightenment. In general, the state wants to keep people employed. I assume there is some kind of negative consequence for the employer, but I’m unclear on the details.

    Disclaimer: Aside from being RIFfed numerous times, I am not an expert on CA employment laws. As always, check with the state of CA for pertinent details. I assume other states have their own regulations re: unemployment.


  7. Anita says:

    Ah, unemployment benefits. I know them well :-) I don’t know if it applies to all states, but here in MA, employers pay unemployment insurance for their workers. You can collect if you’re laid off or involuntarily terminated, as long as it isn’t “for cause.”

    I’ve worked as a contract software developer since 1992. Most of the time, I’ve been able to collect unemployment because I usually work through an agency. I end up being an employee of the agency, working on a W-2 basis, so they withhold taxes and pay unemployment insurance just like a regular employer. This is how most employers get around the issues with hiring contractors. The IRS is very particular with their 20-point test as to what an independent contractor is, so most companies just avoid the hassles and pay the premium the agencies charge. Most agencies these days even offer some level of benefits. My last one had full health and disability insurance, FSAs, and a 401K plan.

    Once a contract is done, I’m able to collect unemployment benefits. “Job ended” is what I’ve always used for the reason and I’ve always been approved. I’ve been told that we have the highest unemployment benefits (and probably the highest unemployment insurance costs :-) in the US here in MA. When I collected last year, I was getting the maximum rate of $575 per week.

    I have also worked as an independent contractor, through my own company, on a 1099 basis. I’m doing that now. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to pay unemployment insurance on yourself in that case. Until now, I never did it often enough to bother to look into it.

    It seems like CA might be a lot more particular about how you employ people. I wonder if they allow the contract agency model? That would be a great way to get temporary help during busy times.

  8. Claire-Marie Costanza says:

    Anita – Hiring contractors through an agency is very often done in California, for exactly the same reasons you mention. In CA, I think “job ended” would also be a valid reason to collect unemployment.

  9. Ellen Z says:

    To Laura J who wrote:

    The test was fairly easy with the exception of the question about overtime for piecework. If I had employees, they’d be happy because I would have overpaid them $70!


    I spoke to them after I took the test about taking that question off, or correcting it. There was no correct answer provided. Not only were there grammatical errors on this test, but the Q about minimum wage was old (so they said it wouldn’t count) and the question you wrote about didn’t even provide the correct answer. I was a little insulted that I’m expected to fly to another state and pay $750 to take a test that a monkey must have put together.

  10. kelly says:

    is it possible to bring the booklets into the exam or must all information be committed to memory?
    there seem to be a number of sections that while they apply, they don’t seem like they are as important as others.

  11. charlie says:

    the test is made by such idiots. the fill in the blank section has the broadest questions that could easily have several correct questions. If they mark me down because I didnt get “their” answer, I am gonna start a sweat shop.

  12. Lauren says:

    Has anyone taken the garment exam recently? I’m currently studying and would love some advice about where to focus my time. Is the exam multiple choice, fill in the blank, or state the code/regulation format? I’m wondering if I need to know specific numbers for hallway widths, staircase railing exceptions, etc.? Also why is a calculator allowed for the test? Is there math involved? I haven’t come across any math in the study materials yet. I’d really appreciate any advice you can spare!

  13. Miriam says:

    I took the exam twice already and still have not passed don’t know why and I called the San Francisco office and they can’t tell me how many I missed is a 50 question and I believe. We can only miss 15 they are making everything very difficult I work from home and is the only job I have now my son is going to miss this year at Cal state university …

  14. Yikes… I was just looking over the fee schedule, and if you are like me, and had no idea this license existed (how would I know if I hadn’t stumbled on this blog???), and had any gross sales over the past 3 years, the manufacturer’s fee is $2500. I guess that covers what I would have been paying had I known about it.

    I made sure from the beginning that I had my business license, trademark, C-corp status, insurances, tax ID, DBA etc. and no attorney or accountant along the way advised me that this existed. Wouldn’t I have been surprised if they just showed up and shut me down?

  15. Laurie says:

    I took the test this morning and it was pretty easy – IF you studied for the right thing. Fortunately, all the printed material is now available online, since it’s close to impossible to read that 6 pt type. I made the mistake of diligently studying the entire “Examination Study Materials” for OSHA, since it was one of the few things in my mailed packet that was big enough to see. Now I know how to design & construct a safe building in case I’m ever called upon to do so. Last night I went online to review these 2 booklets which were unreadable in printed form, and it is fairly clear about they want you to study, among which are only about 4 items from the OSHA book. Those booklets are here: and
    The other (readable) study booklets they send you are also important.
    The math is really goofy and I have no idea how I did on that.
    The DLSE website is very helpful, since a lot of it is now in FAQ format.

    • Sandy says:

      Hi, how easy was the test. Do you have to write the answers or you get to bubble an answer and how many questions do you need to have correct in order to pass?

      Are the answers are the flash cards like for example what’s the definition of wages.. Etc..

  16. Laurie says:

    Hi Sandy,
    “Easy” is subjective, but I didn’t think it was too bad. It was all T/F or multiple choice. What threw me is the fattest study guide that was all the OSHA regulations. Nice to know if you are doing a build out for a manufacturing plant, but not relevant to the test.
    See the links in my last post.
    Good luck!

  17. Wendy says:

    I’ve taken the test twice now and still have not passed. at first i had trouble with understanding the math, so i had some lady tutor me on how to solve the different types of math problems that are on the test. so i practiced and practiced until i felt confident that i knew how to solve each type of problems…. i really felt like i was actually gonna pass the test this time around. BUUUUT….for some fricken reason…NONE of my answers matched any of the multiple choice!! i even tried different possible ways that i can get any of the answers listed but couldnt figure it out. so i ended up choosing the answers that were somewhat close to the numbers i had gotten. honestly i find this really frustrating. Since wednesday is the last date that i can retake the test for the third time… lets hope that i dont have to deal with this anymore and get this done and over with and passing. *fingers crossed*

  18. Wendy says:

    OH! i forgot to leave an updated post about the test…SOoooOOo….when i went to take the again….i was stuck on the math questions YET AGAIN!! still wondering wtf am i doing wrong?? why aren’t my answers matching ANY of the answers given?!?! AND THEEEEEEEEEN!! i noticed at the bottom of the test booklet it says (rev2012)….so i asked the guy who was in charge…”does this right here mean revised in 2o12??” he said “yeah. just put an asterisk next to the questions and calculate for this year and write your answer at the bottom” so the fricken test IS OUTDATED!!! so i calculated the math using the minimum wage in 2012. and finally got an answer that was one of the multiple choice. i was fricken upset!! i failed fricken twice because the test is outdated?!?? thats bs!! imagine how many ppl they’ve been failing and makin everyone pay exam fees again and again!!

    just thought id let everyone know..whos gonna be taking the test in los angeles

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