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Quetico Ordered to Pay $1.3 Million in Wage- and Hour- Law Violations

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on November 4th, 2013

California Labor Regulators Have Ordered Quetico to Pay Overtime, Penalties, and Other Compensation for Wage Violations

California state labor regulators have ordered Quetico, a warehouse and distribution company that receives and distributes shoes, apparel and electronic goods for big-box retailers, to pay $1.3 million in overtime, penalties and other compensation for wage-and hour-law violations.

State Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su’s investigation of two Quetico facilities revealed that the company enforced restrictive procedures that shortened workers of their wages.

Because there were only three available clocks in the facilities totaling half a million square feet in size, employees had to go to work early to stand in long lines to punch time cards.

The commissioner’s office found employees also were denied legally required 30-minute lunch and rest breaks because they had to stand in the same long lines. Allegedly, workers who complained about the punch card situation and the unpaid wages that resulted from the lost time received disciplinary memos and suspensions.

“Wage theft takes many forms,” Su said. “My office will crack down on any employer who is taking hard-earned wages from workers by falsifying time cards and systematically preventing employees from taking a full meal break. We are also intent on eliminating the competitive advantages that labor law violators gain over employers who play by the rules.”

Quetico plans to appeal and disagrees with conclusions reached

Quetico said in a statement that it plans to appeal and that it “strongly disagrees with the conclusions reached” by the labor commissioner. “The notion that Quetico systematically prevented employees from receiving the wages and benefits to which they are entitled under California law is outrageous, misleading and false.”

Warehouse Workers United is a labor union-backed group that has been campaigning to highlight alleged labor abuses at Inland Empire distribution centers used by Walmart Stores Inc., Puma, and Levi Strauss & Co., and other retailers. According to the group Quetico’s warehouses also have been cited by state agencies for safety violations in the last year.

“Many of the problems that we commonly see in Southern California warehouses are concentrated at this warehouse,” said Guadalupe Palma, the group’s director.

Quetico workers first raised concerns last year with an arm of Warehouse Workers United. Subsequently they filed complaints with the labor commissioner’s office.  The office said it has received assurances from Quetico’s management that the company would change its practices on time card, rest break and disciplinary policies.

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation
http://www.employmentforall.org/

The Increasing Number of Wage and Hour Lawsuits

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Unpaid Overtime on October 13th, 2013

“Wage and Hour” Lawsuits

According to a recent analysis of data by the Federal Judicial Center, “wage and hour” lawsuits in which workers are taking their employers to court over unfair pay have skyrocketed 432 percent in the past twenty years.

The research (conducted by the law firm Sayfarth and Shaw on behalf of the Federal Judicial Center) shows that it jumped 10 percent in just the last year.

An Increase in Lawsuits, But why?

The law firm concludes this increase might be a result of the economy picking up steam as well as “social media,” and the public’s inclination to post their grievances to Facebook, Twitter, etc… An increased number of lawyers are now looking to bring awareness and sensitivity to these issues.

But advocates of workers are more apt to claim a different reason: the inability of the Department of Labor (DOL) to properly ensure employers are in compliance with the law. As a result of the DOL’s lack of resources, workers have had to turn to courts to ensure they are paid fairly.

According to Cathy Ruckelshaus, the legal co-director for the National Employment Law Project, “The employers were emboldened because there wasn’t enforcement, so the violations increased. There was a lot of low-hanging fruit in terms of violations.”

According to ThinkProgress, while all wage and hour lawsuits involve a dispute over how much money a company owes to an employee, the suits typically fall into three sub-categories:

1. Hourly employees claiming they weren’t paid for all of the hours worked,

2. Salaried workers claiming they’re owed overtime,

3. Employees working for the tipped minimum wage claiming they didn’t make enough in tips to bring their pay up to the minimum wage rate.

But the economic downturn might also be to blame as employers were able to squeeze more out of workers concerned with keeping their jobs in an environment of high unemployment.

According to an April 2012 report from the Wall Street Journal S&P 500 companies made an average of $420,000 per employee in 2011, a full ninth more than in 2007.

“When the recession first hit, employers felt even more emboldened to violate the law because there was high unemployment and we rely on workers to complain,” Ruckelshaus said.

Bank of America and Taco Bell were hit with lawsuits

Companies such as Bank of America and Taco Bell were hit with lawsuits alleging they owed employees money during the recession and recovery. Patricia Sloan, a shift manager at Taco Bell is one such employee that has filed a lawsuit against her employer for overtime pay violations.

In her case, Sloan is claiming that managers were sometimes denied pay for their employee attendance, and that they were also forced to adjust time cards in order for the company to avoid paying overtime. If Taco Bell is found to be in violation they could be ordered to pay overtime back wages as well as penalties for their noncompliance to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

According to Ruckelshaus, the boost in lawsuits could be good news for employees because it sends a message to employers that they have to comply with laws, or face the consequences.

“The idea is that employers make decisions that don’t violate the law because they figure ‘we better not do this because we’re going to get caught,'” she said.

http://www.employmentforall.org

Peter K. Levine
A Professional Law Corporation

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