Yet again, multi-billion dollar retail giant Walmart recently found itself making employment news headlines. Earlier this year, one of Walmart’s largest distributors, Schneider Logistics, settled a labor dispute case with hundreds of workers for millions of dollars. Though Schneider Logistics agreed to pay the workers, the company refused to admit fault for any wage or hour law violations.
The Schneider Settlement
Three employees filed the claim against Schneider in 2012: Franklin Quezada, Victor Ramirez, and Elizabeth Gutierrez, who worked in the largest warehouse that handled Walmart merchandise. The wage and hour violations alleged included the following:
· In 2008, Schneider implemented an alternative scheduling system, in which employees would work four 10-hour shifts per week.
· The system effectively allowed the company to withhold deserved overtime wages.
· The company forced employees to sign waivers stating they agreed to skip meal and rest breaks during their 10-hour shifts.
· The waivers were only provided in English, though many employees only spoke Spanish and did not therefore understand what they were signing.
· Schneider further took illegal deductions from the already short paychecks.
Once the employees filed the lawsuit, they claimed supervisors and other workers treated them poorly and ignored them at work. The plaintiffs believed many other workers were fearful of losing their jobs if they associated with them.
However, the plaintiffs’ bold move paid off, as Schneider Logistics has signed a settlement agreement stating the company will pay out $4.7 million to 568 workers who have been employed at that distribution center since the alternative scheduling system began. This case provides yet another example of how wage and hour violations can cost a company a significant amount of money.
In wake of the settlement, a Walmart spokesperson reminded the media that none of the warehouse employees worked directly for Walmart and that the company takes any possible steps to ensure its contractors comply with employment laws and treat workers fairly. Walmart claims it has had a program in place for almost a year that involves audits of all contractor sites and third-party warehouses to
ensure they are complying with wage and hour laws, safety requirements, and generally treating employees well.
In spite of these claims, labor groups continue to target Walmart in the fight for fair wages and proper working conditions. Additionally, courts allowed Walmart to be sued as a “joint employer” in another case against Schneider Logistics. That case alleges dangerously hot working conditions, improper deductions on paychecks, and retaliation for employee complaints.
Whether you work for a large or small employer, you should never have to accept wage and hour violations. If you believe your employer has been engaging in unlawful workplace practices, you should not delay in calling the office of HKM Employment Attorneys as soon as possible for assistance.