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Riverside Warehouse Investigated by CA Labor Officials, Sued by Workers for Wage Theft, Abusive Conditions

November 16, 2011

Last month a group of workers at a Riverside, California warehouse that handles goods headed to Wal-Mart stores across the country, filed a California class action wage and hour lawsuit, claiming that they have been working under abusive conditions, after being regularly shortchanged on their wages, and required to work in a dangerous working environment.

Everardo Carrillo, along with five other low-wage workers from the Schneider Logistics-run warehouse, filed the class action lawsuit last month, claiming that they were consistently denied proper pay, and were forced to perform strenuous unskilled labor in extremely hot conditions. The workers claim that when they would question the total hours worked, after receiving less compensation than they felt they were owed, their bosses responded with the threat of retaliation, or with actual retaliation--by sending them home without pay, or refusing to give them more work the next day.

The lawsuit named Schneider and three of its staffing contractors who supply the temporary labor to Schneider's Wal-mart distribution facility. According to the lawsuit, the majority of the low-wage workers at the warehouse are Latino immigrants, who do not speak the English language, are unaware of their California employment rights, and have an education that does not go beyond the middle school level.

According to the California class action wage and hour lawsuit, most of the workers in the warehouse used to be directly employed by Schneider, earning an hourly wage of between $12 and $17 per hour, with employment benefits. Over the past five years, the workers claim that the proportion of direct worker hires in the warehouse declined dramatically to around 25%, with the hourly wages dropping as well. The workers are accusing the companies of enacting an unlawful employment scheme to depress the workers' wages through outsourcing and subcontractor layering.

In February of 2010, the warehouse employers reportedly switched the workers from an hourly pay rate to a piece rate plan--where workers were paid per the number of truck containers that they unloaded or loaded, with the understanding that they would earn more money under the new plan. The workers' wages dropped after changing the plan, and according to the lawsuit, the plan was confusing and didn't add up--no matter how much effort a worker put into unloading or loading a container, the worker would not be paid, unless the container was either empty or full by the end of the worker's shift.

The workers claim that the labor is physically demanding and exhausting, often with container temperatures that rise to over 90 degrees, creating a dangerous working environment as they travel back and forth into the steel containers all day, loading and unloading.

The lawsuit was filed one week after California Labor Commissioner, Julie A. Su, filed alleged labor law violations against two of the warehouse's temporary staffing agencies, after an investigation revealed that many workers had not been properly compensated for all hours, and were not given proper pay records. Su stated that the charges marked the beginning of a serious investigation into the companies that operate inside the warehouse--as the many layers of subcontracting in warehouse work can make it hard to enforce labor laws, especially when there is a deliberate effort to avoid compliance with labor laws.

Schneider Logistics was also sued earlier this year by workers, in a class-action lawsuit against the company--a similar Wal-Mart distribution center outside Chicago. The workers also alleged violations of labor laws.

On October 31, 2011, a federal judge in Los Angeles issued a temporary restraining order requiring Schneider Logistics and the three warehouse staffing agencies, Rogers-Premier Unloading Services, Premier Warehousing Ventures, and Impact Logistics, to begin complying with federal and California state payroll recordkeeping and disclosure laws.

In cities throughout Riverside County, and Orange County, California, contact our labor and employment attorneys at Howard Law, PC today.

Warehouse Workers At Wal-Mart-Contracted Facility Allege Abusive Conditions, Wage Theft, The Huffington Post, October 18, 2011

Federal Court Issues TRO Requiring Wal-Mart Warehouses to Comply with Law Warehouse Workers United Press Release, October 2011

Walmart Warehouse Under Investigation By California Labor Officials, The Huffington Post, October 14, 2011

Related Web Resources:

United States Department of Labor

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR): The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, (DSLE)

Related Blog Posts:

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Another DOL Investigation Brings Restaurant Employees $275K in Overtime Back Wages, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 18, 2011

Wal-Mart Supreme Court Ruling May Not Affect Wage and Hour Claims, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 14, 2011

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DOL Wage and Hour Division Audits for Low Wage Industry Violations, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 20, 2010

New Study Reveals More Abuse of Low-wage Workers in Los Angeles, California Employment Lawyers Blog, January 11, 2010

Financial Discrimination for Low-wage Workers in Los Angeles, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 8, 2009

Wal-Mart Will Pay Up to $85 Million in Class Action Lawsuit Settlement, California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 12, 2009