Walmart can be sued for being negligent in hiring contractors that
employ workers at their distribution centers, according to a federal ruling this
Workers had filed the class-action lawsuit, Carrillo v. Schneider, in November that alleges they have not been paid for all their hours worked at rates required by state and federal law, and have not been paid overtime premiums, among other issues.
"She said that we can proceed with our claims that Walmart owes a duty directly to worker even though it has put these contractors in as a buffer between it and the workers," said Michael Rubin, of the firm Altshuler and Berzon in San Francisco, who represents the plaintiff.
"And the duty is to is make sure that if it does hire a contractor, the contractor is going to comply with the law, will be well supervised and Walmart won't put any pressure on the contractor to violate the workers right. "
Walmart's warehouse is operated by Schneider Logistics, Inc. and Schneider hired the subcontractors Rogers-Premier Unloading Services, LLC and Impact-Logistics, Inc.
This case goes against the subcontractors Premier and Impact, the operator Schneider and ultimate customer Walmart, and is claiming they share responsibility for the violations, Rubin said.
"Walmart is saying it is not responsible. It's saying Schneider and Premier and Impact is responsible. Schneider is saying we're not
responsible and that Premier and Impact are responsible," Rubin said.
"Premier and Impact are saying we didn't do it and we don't have enough money to pay the damages, but what's happening in the modern American workplace is there are so many layers of contractors and subcontractors that are set up to basically deny responsibility but this is important because breaks though those levels of deniability and allows us to go after the company that benefits from the labor of the workers. "The decision was issued by Judge Christina Snyder of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California on Monday and reflects workers employed at three warehouses in Mira Loma.
Walmart officials said this week's action merely echoes the judge's preliminary ruling last month and while they disagree the ruling wasn't unexpected.
"So far, there have been no findings of fact as to the claims made in the case nor if Walmart would be responsible for any part of those claims, if proven true. We continue to believe that Schneider Logistics and its contractors are independently responsible for managing their people and that the facts will demonstrate that Walmart is not a joint employer of the plaintiffs," said Dan Fogleman, spokesman for Walmart.
"That said, it is important to note that we hold all of our service providers to high standards and it is our expectation that the law is always followed. "Experts say the ruling in the short term will help employees who have been working in warehouses, like Walmart, that provide goods, to seek justice and fair working conditions.
"I think in the long term it sets a precedence for employers, and I think certainly Walmart -- who is not the only major retailer that uses warehouses to store their goods -- and that all major corporations that do rely on warehouse workers that they need to be held accountable for the working conditions in those warehouses," said Ellen Reese, associate professor of sociology at UC Riverside.
Reese led a study that showed labor subcontracting and lack of employer accountability have fostered unsafe and unfair working conditions in the Inland warehouse industry,
In 2010, 114,000 people were hired in warehouses in the Inland Empire, according to the California Employment Development Department. This workforce is mostly Latino, of which about half are immigrants. Temporary workers who lack benefits and are paid low wages do much of the work, according to the study.
(c)2013 the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, Calif.)
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