Chicago Tribune: Temp agency shorted workers’ wages, lawsuit says

From the Chicago Tribune:

Last September, Miguel Deniz, a laborer at a southwest suburban warehouse, wandered into a Joliet church looking for help.

Worker-rights organizers were holding an information session, and Deniz, who was with about 20 other employees, was pretty sure something was wrong. He was working an awful lot of hours that his paycheck didn’t seem to reflect.

On Thursday Deniz and seven other workers filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that SelectRemedy, the temp agency contracted to staff the warehouse that handles shipping for Wal-Mart, has been shorting wages over the past several years.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, also alleged that the company didn’t pay time-and-a-half for overtime work.

Only SelectRemedy was sued, not Wal-Mart. The accusers worked at the warehouse in Elwood as well as for Pampered Chef and other companies that contracted with SelectRemedy, according to the lawsuit.

But workers’ advocates said the majority of the alleged violations center on the warehouse. On Thursday, the employees stood in frigid weather outside the company’s West Side store to talk about the lost wages.

“I worked 57 hours and I only got paid for 35,” said Deniz, 62, holding a handful of pay stubs. “I think it’s unjust that we’re not getting paid complete hours and for overtime. We’re being defrauded.”

Another company, Schneider Logistics, operates part of the Elwood warehouse and contracts with SelectRemedy, said Mark Meinster, a board member of the Illinois-based Warehouse Workers for Justice.

Michelle Bradford, a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart, said the retailer tries to comply “with all labor laws and regulations.”

“And we rely on our third-party vendors to do the same,” she said.

SelectRemedy did not return calls seeking comment on the lawsuit. Schneider had no immediate comment.

In a written statement, Pampered Chef said it was unaware of the temp workers’ concerns, but it met its contractual obligations “to pay its workers regular and overtime rates for all hours worked.”

The workers at the warehouse near Joliet unload containers with goods including flat-screen TVs, cell phones, and PlayStations. The items are sent to stores across the Midwest.

As Christmas season rolls in and the packaging and shipping increases, the complaints have increased, Meinster said.

“They’ll do whatever it takes to drive labor costs down,” said Chris Williams, an attorney representing the workers. “They’re only working to make profits.”

–Daarel Burnette II and Annie Sweeney

Comments are closed.