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LOS ANGELES -- U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson has approved the $22.4 million class action settlement won in December by 2,000 mostly Hispanic janitors hired to work at Albertsons, Ralphs, Safeway, and Vons stores against the supermarket chains in a lawsuit in which they alleged that janitorial subcontractors, with the knowledge of the chains, failed to pay employees according to overtime and minimum wage laws.
The plaintiffs, who stand to receive up to $10,000 each in the settlement, worked for national contracting firm Building One Services, which used more than 200 subcontractors. Building One has since declared bankruptcy.
The janitors said they were assigned to work seven days a week, sometimes 365 days a year, without any payment whatsoever for the thousands of overtime hours worked every year. As a result, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney, who pursued criminal cases against some of the subcontractors, many of the janitors were paid as little as $2.47 per hour instead of the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. The plaintiffs maintained that the grocery chains were aware the janitors were not being paid proper wages and benefits for their labor, but continued to employ them anyway through subcontractors.
"For a long time, big corporations felt immune from the actions of their subcontractors, but we are now seeing a major shift, and corporations are being held accountable in court for the actions of their subcontractors," said SEIU associate general counsel Craig Becker in a statement.