California's dream of BYD electric buses may be starting to head toward nightmare territory.
The state aggressively courted the Chinese electric-car maker, hoping it would create jobs and put electric vehicles on the road.
But last month, California fined BYD almost $100,000 for violating the state's minimum-wage laws, The New York Times reports.
BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China
BYD (which stands for Build Your Dreams) employs 40 people in California, five of whom are temporary workers brought in from China.
Those five employees were reportedly paid far less than the state's $8.00-an-hour minimum wage.
BYD America vice president Micheal Austin told the Times that they were in California to install equipment and train permanent employees at BYD's U.S. factory. The company claims the workers--in the United States on legal work visas--are not subject to state labor laws.
Workers told investigators that they are staying in the U.S. for one to six months. One worker said they were making the equivalent of $1.50 per hour, plus a $50-per-day allowance for food and other expenses.
LA Metro agreed to test five of BYD's 40-foot electric buses, and buy 20 more if they performed well.
Chinese battery electric crossover: BYD e6 test drive, Los Angeles, May 2012
Its U.S. operations have experienced continuing media scrutiny because fabled financier Warren Buffet purchased stake of almost 10 percent of BYD in 2008.
The company has been focusing on bus sales after a handful of unsuccessful attempts to sell its e6 electric crossover in the U.S.
BYD Auto--the company's passenger car division--displayed the e6 at the 2009 and 2010 Detroit Auto Shows, promising to sell it to retail customers.
With its electric-bus business continuing to generate controversy, BYD's plans to put electric vehicles on U.S. roads seem to face continuing challenges.