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Forever 21 to pay fine, agrees to remedy unsafe storage hazards

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Fashion retailer Forever 21 Retail Inc. has agreed to pay $100,000 and pledged to eliminate hazards at a Connecticut store as part of a settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Forever 21 in May after an inspection of its Westfarms Mall store in Farmington, Connecticut, found boxes piled as high as 10 feet and stacked in an unstable manner, blocking exit routes or potentially falling on workers, the agency said Thursday in a statement.

The company initially contested the citations and penalties, but has now agreed to abate the cited hazards and comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act and its standards, according to OSHA. However, the initial penalties totaling $165,000 were lowered to $100,000 after one part of the citation carrying a $55,000 penalty was vacated and two other items in the citation lowered by $5,000 each after the retailer pledged to certify abatement within 10 days of the agreement being finalized, according to the settlement agreement.

“Retailers should stock products safely and away from emergency exits, especially during the holiday season when store stock increases,” Kim Stille, OSHA's New England regional administrator in Boston, said in the statement. “Additionally, retailers must avoid stacking boxes so high that they could tip or fall and strike an employee. Proper safeguards will prevent needless and avoidable injuries.”

“While the settlement resolves this case, it also sends a message to Forever 21 and other retailers, either stand-alone businesses or multiple-store enterprises, that it's their responsibility under the law to take effective steps to protect employees at their establishments, wherever located, against these hazards,” Michael Felsen, the regional solicitor of labor for New England in Boston, said in the statement.

"Forever 21 has an existing and extensive program focused on preventing and eliminating safety hazards at every store," the company said in an email. "All citations by OSHA were voluntarily corrected over a year ago when Forever 21 was originally presented with them."