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 meal break laws and rest break laws, and many distribution center companies simply don't follow California's wage laws. Based upon what we see, this happens a lot. Meaning, that if you work in a distribution center in California, you may not be getting all the wages that you are owed.
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 we have handled a lot of distribution center class action lawsuits. We know first hand about the ways that distribution centers try and get away with not paying you all the wages that you are owed under California wage and hour laws.
Logistics and distribution center employees commonly suffer California labor law violations due to:
- Not paying for all time worked: Distribution center companies regularly don't pay for all hours, that you are under the control of the company. For example, if you have to wait in a security line either going into or out of the distribution center, then you are under the control of the company. You must be paid for this time. Even if this is only a few minutes a day, this will give rise to significant paycheck stub violations and waiting time penalties. This is just one example, we see many instances of employees not getting paid for all time they are under the control of the company. This is why you should get a free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis.
- Not paying for all overtime worked: If you are working 8 hours a day and/or 40 hours a week (or more) and the company is not paying for all the time that you worked and you will be entitled to overtime wages. Another example is when 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.
- Meal breaks: If you are having to wait in a security line while you are on a meal break, then under California law, you are not only not getting paid for all time worked, but you are also probably entitled to an hour's pay because you didn't receive a legally compliant meal period.
- Rest breaks: Once we do a free, no obligation unpaid wages analysis, we usually see that distribution center workers are not receiving legally compliant rest breaks. This happens more often than not for distribution center workers. You are also probably entitled to an hour's pay because you didn't receive a legally compliant rest break.
- 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.
- Rounding: Some employers have been accused of timecard “rounding,” paying workers to the nearest 6 minutes or 15 minutes or even half-hour of their actual clock-in time. When a company rounds such that workers are getting cheated, then it is illegal under California law.
- Pay stub violations: When employers fail to pay for all time work, don't pay all overtime pay, and/or have meal period violations and/or rest break violations then you will also see pay stub or paycheck violations under California law. You may be entitled to up to $4,000 for this alone.
- Waiting time penalties: When companies don't pay for all time worked, don't pay all wages owed - see all of the above - then workers are probably owed waiting time penalties fir these wages are paid at time of termination (which they never are, it seems). This is 30 days wages, so this also really adds up for most workers.
- 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.
This is all based upon California Supreme Court cases that we worked on
Many folks say that the most important California Supreme Court case for workers' wage rights is the Brinker vs. Superior Court case. We represented the workers in the Brinker case.
In the Brinker case, the California Supreme Court has characterized that purpose as Labor Code and the IWC wage orders that cover employees is the protection of employees. Particularly given the extent of legislative concern about working conditions, wages, and hours when the Legislature enacted key portions of the Labor Code.We saw this with the ground breaking California Supreme Court Brinker case - that we represented the workers in - that provided meal period and rest period rights to California workers.
We saw this in the recent Augustus vs. ABM case, where the Supreme Court - in effect - said, “All those rights that we said applied to meal breaks and implied applied to rest breaks for California workers, well we meant every word of it and yes, they also apply to rest breaks.” At least that is my take on the Augustus Supreme Court decision. And it is exactly what I wrote in the Supreme Court brief that I submitted in the Augustus case.
"What can I do?"
This is a great question. The first thing that you should do is get a free, no-obligation unpaid wage analysis. You can email us on the contact form on this webpage or you can call us at 619-234-2822. I suggest that you don't wait, because there are deadlines for bringing many of these types of cases.
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Recently when proposed Initiatives were filed that would have effectively ended PAGA in California, Bill was one of the lawyers that met with the California Secretary of State on the potential fiscal impact of the PAGA Initiatives. Bill also met with the California Attorney General’s office on the proposed Ballot language for the PAGA Initiatives. Due in part to Bill’s efforts, the PAGA initiatives were withdrawn.
We are not suggesting that Bill works for the California Secretary of State or the California Attorney General. But the fact that Bill was one of the few lawyers that was chosen to meet with them regarding the PAGA Initiatives is telling.
It’s our take that Bill was chosen to meet with them because Bill is seen as one of the leading attorneys in California that handles PAGA actions and Bill is known for being a straight-shooter.
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