Ellwood, IL. Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Time Theft Lawsuit
Just what Wal-Mart needs: another class action wage theft lawsuit. As quickly as the retailer moves to settle these cases, new litigation gets filed. This lawsuit involves some temp workers who were hired to work at a Wal-Mart distribution center in Ellwood, Illinois.
The workers argue that they were systematically cheated out of the wages they actually earned. The website "Working In These Times," whose mission is to provide "independent and incisive coverage of the labor movement and the struggles of workers to obtain safe, healthy and just workplaces," report this week that two African American workers at a Wal-Mart distribution center in Ellwood, Illinois sued the temp employment agency that hired them to work atd Wal-Mart after three months of unloading containers, because the temp employees say they were "fed up with getting paid much less than he had been promised" by the temp agency.
One of the plaintiffs, Robert Hines, charges that he worked seven days for 10 to 12 hours per day, but that Wal-Mart never paid him for those day. A total of 8 plaintiffs filed their class action case in federal court, suing the owner of the temp agency and the company which runs the warehouse for Wal-Mart. Workers in Illinois have a right to get their own pay and billing records -- but the temp agency refused to release the worker's records. Wal-Mart may end up being liable for the damages in this case as well.
The 37 year old Hines says the temp agency claims he did not work the days he says he worked. "The lady looked me in the face and said I have no recollection of you working," Hines says. The lawsuit charges that the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act were all violated. The workers say they were not paid for overtime, were not paid the minimum wage, and failed to pay at least four hours' wages when workers were called in to work -- a requirement of the day labor services act.
Hines says he was supposed to get $10 an hour plus a piece rate for unloading trucks. The plaintiffs say that not only were they not paid the piece rate, but they were also paid less than state and federal minimum wage, and never received proper pay for new work, or for overtime. For Hines, he was often shorted as much as 20% of his pay. The litigation also notes that workers were not paid for mandatory waiting time, adding up to multiple hours per week. In one case, a worker wrote his arrival time on a sign-in sheet, but a supervisor actually tore the sheet up.
"Even if you are paying a piece rate, under federal law you need to show that adds up to at least minimum wage," one attorney handling the lawsuit told Workin In These Times. The plaintiffs say they were paid a piece rate, but it was often divided among two or three workers, and that the number of work hours was invented. "The check stub is a fiction -- their check stub could show they worked 36 hours when they really worked 72 hours." The workers say if they could get access to their work records, they will show how the temp agency 'doctored' the results. "The workers are supposed to be able to go into the office and get this information themselves," the lawyer added. "But unfortunately the law isn't working. That's why we had to take this to federal court."
What you can do: The workers say they have unpaid wages going back three years. want unpaid wages, going back up to three years. The lawsuit also asks for statutory damages on some counts, attorneys' fees, and that the company be blocked from violating these laws in the future. The suit notes that under the day labor services act, third party companies like Schneider that hire staffing companies are liable and legally responsible for any unpaid wages by the staffing company.
"Hopefully this lawsuit will trickle down and help not just us but other people," Hines told Working In These Times. "Maybe they'll wake up and see that they have to treat people fairly if they want to get more out of us. Now they're sitting there high on the hog, eating nice food, while we're on the dollar menu at McDonald's."
Readers are urged to call Wal-Mart at 1-800-Walmart (1-800-925-6278) with the following message: "I hope you will look into the lawsuit filed in Ellwood, Illlinois by temporary workers at your distribution center. These workers charge that they have been cheated out of their fair wages by the temp agency and the agent that runs employment of your distribution center.
When you come to town, you tell people that your distribution center will pay a decent wage -- but then we learn that some of the people working for you are temporary workers, and not even getting a fair wage as advertised.
This 'time theft' should be intolerable to you. These people are working in your facility, moving your merchandise, and they are being exploited in your name, and to help your bottom line. Wal-Mart should tell the temp agency, Reliable Staffing, to pay these workers their full back wages due, and comply with state law that makes their wage records open to them.
By allowing these temp workers to be cheated, you are complicit in this form of corporate stealing."