GOVERNMENT TO TAKE CLOSE LOOK AT CONTRACTOR

LOS ANGELES -- Agents from five government agencies late last month seized business records from the Arroyo Grande, Calif., office of Houston-based Encompass Services Corp., a national building management company that provides janitorial services through subcontractors to the southern California stores of such retailers as Albertson's, Vons, Kmart and Target.Two of these subcontractors were convicted

LOS ANGELES -- Agents from five government agencies late last month seized business records from the Arroyo Grande, Calif., office of Houston-based Encompass Services Corp., a national building management company that provides janitorial services through subcontractors to the southern California stores of such retailers as Albertson's, Vons, Kmart and Target.

Two of these subcontractors were convicted of felonies for severely underpaying workers, and the agents were seeking evidence that could tie the violations to Encompass, according to Susan Gard, spokeswoman for the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Gard told SN that labor abuses by janitorial service subcontractors are widespread and not limited to the retail industry, although retailers are one of the first groups the state has looked at.

"There have been some companies that have done the right thing to make sure workers are paid and treated properly," Gard said, citing Stater Bros. Markets, Compton, Calif., as an example of a firm that brought janitorial services back in-house after it became aware of subcontractor abuses. "Others disavow any relationship with the subcontractors. That remains to be seen."

Russell Johnson, a spokesman for Encompass, told SN, "We monitor our subcontractors frequently, and if there ever is a problem we work to correct it. We hold our subcontractors to the same high standards we hold ourselves to."