Washington, DC (BBN)-After it was named in a lawsuit filed by victims last week, J.C. Penney wants people to know that it had no supplier relationships with factories housed in the building that collapsed in Bangladesh two years ago, killing more than 1,000 people.
Victims and families of victims of the Rana Plaza building collapse have filed suit against Wal-Mart, Penney, The Children’s Place and the government of Bangladesh, reports The Dallas Morning News.
When the eight-story building collapsed on April 24, 2013, 1,129 people were killed and about 2,515 were injured.
Many of the victims were women and children.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington last Thursday, claims the retailers and the government were aware of the unsafe conditions.
Plano-based Penney said this week that while it still won’t comment on the lawsuit itself, it wants to clarify some things:
The factories in Rana Plaza were not suppliers for Penney’s private brand merchandise. “Therefore, we did not place orders with those factories.”
After the tragedy, Penney learned that one of the factories was producing clothes for a national brand, and a small portion of that was for Penney stores.
Penney requires all of its suppliers to adhere to a set of principles and legal standards for worker safety.
Penney also said it added staff in Bangladesh before the accident, making the nation its base for social compliance through South and Southeast Asia.
“Our local presence there helps to ensure our standards of compliance are continually being enforced in the region,” Penney said in a statement provided to The Dallas Morning News.
Penney is a founding member of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety that was formed in July 2013 and says it’s working with governments, retailers and brands to bring improvements to the garment industry.
Wal-Mart is also a founding member of the alliance and said in a statement Wednesday that in the last year, the group provided fire safety training to more than 1 million factory employees and managers, piloted a worker help line, and provided compensation for approximately 1,000 displaced workers.
Wal-Mart also declined to comment on the details of the lawsuit. The Children’s Place hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Other lawsuits have been filed around the world in Canada, Spain and Italy, said Jonathan Greenbaum, the lawyer who filed the federal lawsuit.
He said he chose Washington, D.C., because it has strong consumer protection laws.
Greenbaum’s lawsuit doesn’t say what specific goods belonged to the three retailers named in the lawsuit.
“Some companies pulled out earlier,” he said, “but these three had goods sourced at those factories at that period of time.” Greenbaum also said he didn’t know whether the orders were from national brands or J.C. Penney private label brands.
The Bangladesh government breached its duty to its citizens by failing to properly inspect the building, failing to ensure compliance with local construction standards and failing to ensure the safety of factory workers, the lawsuit said.
The day before the collapse, cracks were found in the building and an engineer declared the building unsafe.
“Defendants knew, or with the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known, that the Rana Plaza facility was not safe for human habitation,” the lawsuit said.
Retail defendants breached their duty to workers, the lawsuit claims, by failing to ensure the health and safety of workers who made clothing for their stores.
The complaint said retailers profit from the system of sourcing through subcontractors: “Although retailer defendants, and other Western buyers, contain strong language in their public policies against nontransparent subcontracting, factory owners report that many buyers turn a blind eye to the subcontracting practice.”