As it battles against state allegations of workplace abuse, Chinese electric bus manufacturer BYD Co. Ltd. said last week that it has hired downtown L.A. law firm Paul Hastings to represent the company.

The California Department of Industrial Relations has cited the manufacturing firm for violations at its North American headquarters in Los Angeles and its plant in Lancaster. BYD has been accused of not paying its employees the state’s minimum wage, not providing worker’s compensation insurance, failure to provide itemized wage statements and not giving a second brief rest break.

BYD chose Los Angeles as the site of its North American headquarters in 2010, promising to create 150 jobs for the region. In exchange, city officials gave it a sizable incentive package that included $2 million in grants to renovate the headquarters site and surrounding public rights-of-way. The city also agreed to purchase millions in BYD products, approved up to $2.4 million in lease guarantees to the site’s property owner should BYD break its lease agreement, and granted breaks on car import tariffs and power bills available to other companies.

Not only has the company failed to deliver the promised jobs – the Business Journal reported it had only 39 employees earlier this year – but the company was also recently fined by the Department of Industrial Relations for allegedly underpaying Chinese workers that it brought to Los Angeles.

The department levied $99,245 in fines against the company after an investigation last month. The department cited 122 violations at the Lancaster facility between late August and Oct. 10, according to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Paul Hastings is investigating the issues and working on a resolution on the matter, BYD said in a statement last week.

“As a new company in California, we are learning the rules and if there are any issues of concern we are dedicated to fixing them,” BYD said.

The company said it believed that the citations were “premature” due to language barriers or other misunderstandings.

“If the Labor Commissioner had reached out to us to raise and discuss in a conciliatory manner any concerns that it had, BYD would have been pleased to participate,” the company said.

BYD owns one building in Lancaster for assembly of electric buses and leases a second for battery-pack assembly.

The investigation into BYD remains active, a Department of Industrual Relations spokesperson said.

The San Fernando Valley Business Journal contributed to this report.

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