Wal-Mart Contractor to Pay $4.7 Million for Wage Theft
Over 500 Schneider Logistics employees became part of a lawsuit against the company for underpayment and denial of rest and meal breaks. Schneider Logistics operates warehouses for Wal-Mart products, including Wal-Mart’s largest warehouse on the West Coast.
According to the Los Angeles Times article, the employees filed their lawsuit in March of 2012 and reached a settlement in December of 2013. In the lawsuit, the employees claimed managers regularly changed the warehouse workers timecards to prevent them from earning not only overtime, but their regular hourly wages, as well. According to the claimant, Schneider Logistics adopted a new scheduling policy, which shorted them on hours and overtime, and had employees sign agreements that waived their rights to meal breaks. One employee said that not only did he not understand that he had a right to meal breaks, but that the waiver forms he claims he was forced to sign were in English, which he cannot read. This fraudulent behavior allegedly took place for five years.
As with most settlements, Schneider Logistics will not admit there was wage theft, but will pay the majority of the suing employees for their lost wages. As part of the settlement agreement, Schneider Logistics will also take steps to correct the practices that led to the lawsuit. The company will go back to using their traditional schedules, five 8-hour days, and will require employees to agree to any timecard changes that are made. It will also revise its rest and meal break policies to conform to all applicable laws. Additionally while Wal-Mart did not employ any of the warehouse workers, Wal-Mart is taking steps to ensure that its contractors treat their employees fairly through independent, random audits of their contractors’ facilities.
Wages & Break Periods
Under both state and federal law, employees are entitled to payment for the hours that they work.Federal law has set the minimum wage an employee can be paid for his or her work and the maximum number of hours that can be worked in a week before the employee is entitled to overtime. States can change those limits so long as they are in the employees’ favor. In Washington, the minimum wage is $9.32 an hour for 2014 and overtime is at least time and a half, but can be higher based on employment agreements.Wage theft occurs when employers take steps to prevent employees from receiving their earned hourly wages, overtime, or holiday pay. It can also occur when employers prevent employees from taking their meal breaks, particularly if the employer does not pay the employee for the extra time spent working. Washington gives employees the right to a 10 minute paid rest breaks for every 4 hours worked and an unpaid 30 minute meal break, if an employee works for 5 or more hours in a shift. Employees have the right to not take those breaks, but that should be discussed between the employer and the employee to ensure that employment laws are followed.
If you belief you have suffered from wage theft or have believe you have been denied rest or meal breaks, contact an employment law attorney.