Online shopping has created a boom in the warehousing and distribution industry, with retailers employing over 100,000 workers in Southern California alone. Employees who complete orders and load trucks in fulfillment centers may not realize that they are the victims of state labor and wage violations—and those who do may not be able to afford a lawyer. Fortunately, a large workforce makes many of these employees qualified to file a class action lawsuit to recover back wages, lost overtime, and other damages.
Multiple Employers Involved in Warehouse Worker Wage Theft
It can cost companies millions to adhere to California’s strict overtime and break laws, and many employers look for loopholes to pay employees as little as possible. In the case of distribution centers, many retailers partner with warehouse owners and third-party staffing companies that are put in charge of the workers. This allows large companies to avoid liability for employee mistreatment while directly profiting off of harsh working conditions and low worker pay.
The good news is that there have been several successful class action lawsuits involving warehouse employees in recent years, shining a light on illegal activities and awarding workers lost wages and penalties. California courts have also allowed retailers to be named as co-defendants in wage cases if their contractors committed labor violations, greatly increasing the chances of success for workers cheated out of pay.
Not only can large companies such as Wal-Mart and Amazon be financially liable for actions committed by their staffing companies and warehouse managers, they could suffer a drop in sales if the media gives them bad press. Companies have settled wage cases for tens of millions of dollars in order to save their own reputations and businesses, making class actions a powerful tool for workers.
Logistics and distribution center employees commonly suffer labor law violations due to:
- Overtime loopholes. Employees may be shuffled between staffing companies in the course of their monthly schedule, allowing the employer to avoid paying overtime. In addition, employees often work 12-hour shifts without receiving additional breaks or double-time pay.
- Bonus and wage calculations. Under California law, the amount of a performance bonus must be included in the calculation of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Hourly warehouse employees are typically offered bonuses as an incentive, but these bonuses are left out of overtime calculations.
- Timecard violations. Some employers have been accused of timecard “rounding,” paying workers to the nearest 15 minutes or even half-hour of their actual clock-in time. Workers have also alleged that their time cards were altered at the company’s home office so that workers would never receive overtime.
- Posting and compliance violations. Many warehouse workers have reported that they never received employment handbooks or manuals informing them of their rights under state and federal laws. Others have attested that mandatory signage posted in the workplace was in English only, of little benefit to a Spanish-speaking workforce.
- Off-the-clock work. Employers may attempt to avoid break and overtime violations by requiring workers to perform certain tasks before clocking in for a shift or after they have clocked out for the day.
- Threats and intimidation. Many warehouse employees who complain about wage violations or working conditions are threatened, harassed, or fired by employers. Common intimidation tactics include threats of deportation, docking pay, or withholding pay from female workers who do not comply with sexual advances.
If you and your fellow employees have been denied rest breaks or suffered unfair pay deductions, you may be eligible to form a class action to recover unpaid wages, interest, and penalties. To find out whether your employer may be guilty of wage theft, please feel free to learn more about your rights as an employee in our free book, California Truck & Delivery Driver Wage Theft: The Ultimate Straight Talk Guide to Getting Your Hard Earned Wages Back.