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    Warehouse Workers’ Class Action Has Walmart in Sights

    Mega-retailer takes issue with move; says any liability lies with 3rd-party service provider

    In response to news that lawyers representing workers at a Southern California warehouse who allege wage theft were moving to add Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as a defendant, the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer stressed that it had nothing to do with conditions at the Mira Loma facility.

    “We disagree with the plaintiffs’ perception, as stated in their filing,” noted company spokesman Dan Fogleman. “Walmart is [warehouse owner Schneider Logistics Transloading and Distribution’s] customer. We have a set of business needs that we pay them to meet, just like any company might hire an accounting firm to do taxes or an advertising firm to help launch a new product.”

    Added Fogleman: “While we have a set of quality standards that must be met, the third-party service providers we utilize are responsible for running their day-to-day business. They manage their people completely independent of us.”

    According to court documents filed Nov. 30 in Los Angeles: “Recent discovery has established that Wal-Mart bears ultimate responsibility for the violations of state and federal law committed against plaintiff warehouse workers.” The class action, originally filed in October 2011, alleges that Schneider and two staffing agencies cheated contract workers out of pay and then attempted to cover up their actions by failing to keep mandatory payroll records, falsifying records and lying to workers.

    NBCNews.com reported that the staffing agencies have agreed to pay a collective $450,000 in fines and back wages to settle citations issued by California labor officials. Schneider, which wasn’t cited, has said that it “played no role in determining the rate or method of pay” that resulted in the violations.

    If the class action is successful, as many as 1,800 Southern California workers could receive back pay and damages.

    Walmart has faced several claims of unfair treatment of workers in recent years, many spearheaded by such union-backed groups as OUR Walmart and Making Change at Walmart.

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