Walmart Becomes a Defendant in Worker Rights Violations Suit
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UPDATED: Dec 1, 2012
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Walmart was added as a defendant this week to an ongoing federal lawsuit alleging labor violations and large-scale wage fraud. The claims against the super store are brought on behalf of mostly Latino immigrants working on a supply chain in a Southern California warehouse run by Schneider Logistics.
Of its many distribution centers, Walmart manages most, but the massive retail company uses third party contractors and subcontractors to run its largest warehouses–warehouses in which workers are underpaid and required to do physically demanding work. While Walmart contractors have been sued in the past for these same violations, the company itself has managed to stay out of the legal firing zone. Now, prosecutors say that “the ultimate liability for these workplace violations rests squarely on the shoulders of Walmart,” reports the Huffington Post.
Two organizations supporting union workers’ rights, Warehouse Workers United and Warehouse Workers for Justice, are speaking out against the actions of not only the immediate supervisors, but the top dogs at Walmart, who sit at the top of the command chain. Reports suggest that Walmart executives have maintained a close relationship with Schneider Logistics over the years, insinuating that the retailer knew of their operation methods. Advocates maintain that because Walmart is in charge of the contractors who manufacture their products, that the company is therefore responsible for the substandard working conditions at their factories, regardless of who is overseeing operations on the ground.
In the lawsuit, workers in the Southern California warehouses say they are made to work 12-16 hour days at minimum wage, sometimes without breaks, and without overtime. The case has now turned into a class action lawsuit with hundreds of employees becoming involved. Many are speculating that, given the clear labor violations taking place here, Walmart will likely be held liable for money damages in this case. The case has potential to shift the blame for employee rights violations in these corporate command-chain scenarios away from the contractors, and onto the companies that allow for the injustice to take place from above. How the lawsuit plays out could have lasting implications for labor laws in California and across the country.
To learn about workers’ rights and other matters of labor laws in the United States, refer to the Employment Law Section of FreeAdvice.