Street Beat Sportswear, a Brooklyn-based womenswear manufacturer, has been accused of forcing employees to work 100 to 140 hours a week without paying overtime the New York Times reported today.

Three Chinese immigrant workers, Fen X. Chen, Qiu Chen and Yu Zheng, are expected to file a lawsuit today that claims the employers demanded workers do a full day's work without pay - and fired them when they refused.

The company refused to comment until it had seen the legal papers.

The workers, who are represented by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, claim that in one week last May they worked 140 hours each. Fen X. Chen and Qiu Chen (not related) said they reported to work very early each morning and didn't leave the factory until well after midnight. Their jobs were to place finished garments on hangers along with the proper tag and protective bagging. They estimated that together they hung 59,476 garments that week.

"During their employment with defendants, plaintiffs worked seven days a week with only one or two days off a year," while they were employed from February 1999 to September 2000, the lawsuit said.

It is not the first time that Street Beat has been taken to court. In June 1999, the legal defence fund reached a settlement where the company agreed to pay $285,000 in back wages.

Four pressers had accused a factory controlled by Street Beat of forcing them to work 137 hours in one week without paying the legally required time-and-a-half for overtime. Fifteen plaintiffs said they were often required to work 100-hour weeks without overtime.