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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/

Workers Ticketed by Police While Protesting Work Conditions

By Peter Levine posted in Employment Law, Law on September 2nd, 2013

Ticketed strikers refused to leave in order to send a message

Ten current and former Walmart workers and two organizers were ticketed by police outside the retailer’s Washington, D.C., office during a protest over working conditions.

OUR Walmart, an affiliate of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, is spear-heading the strikes and said most of the workers had taken part in recent high-profile strikes and as a result later lost their jobs.

A D.C. police spokeswoman said the protesters were cited for “blocking passage” after refusing to disperse from the sidewalk during the demonstration.

Cindy Murray, an employee at the retailer’s store, reported she and her fellow strikers had refused to leave in order to send a message. Murray said they were protesting what OUR Walmart claims were 20 firings as well as dozens of disciplinary actions that occurred as a result of the worker strikes that started on Black Friday 0f 2012.

“We stood our ground. We felt Walmart needs to know how we truly feel about what we’re doing,” said Murray. “Our demands were that they take back what they did to our 60 workers, and we’re giving them until Labor Day to do that.”

They were fired as a result of violating Walmart’s attendance policy

Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, disputed the claims that the workers in question had been retaliated against, and said they were fired as a result of violating the company’s attendance policy and not because they had gone on strike or took part in protests.

“No associate has ever been retaliated against at Walmart for raising concerns, nor would they be,” Lundberg said. “Many of these associates didn’t show up for days.”

Walmart workers participated in scattered strikes during last year’s Thanksgiving shopping season, calling for higher pay, better access to health care coverage, and more reliable work hours.

OUR Walmart has filed unfair labor practice charges against Walmart on behalf of workers who lost their jobs. The current and former employees who were later detained visited the D.C. headquarters of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces labor law and investigates such charges.

According to Murray, the workers presented an NLRB official with a petition in support of their cause that included 180,000 signatures.

Murray said OUR Walmart plans to escalate its public protests if the disciplinary actions against strikers aren’t reversed.
“We want every worker that they fired due to our strike to be reinstated,” she said.

Murray, a 13-year Walmart veteran, said she earns $12.40 per hour. The $100 ticket she received Thursday for “blocking passage” is almost exactly equal to a day’s wages.

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