Ontario, CA – The state of California has ordered a Southern California warehouse that processes merchandise for Walmart and other retailers to pay 865 workers more than $1 million in stolen wages.
The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement issued the citations Monday, Jan. 28 against Quetico, LLC, a large warehouse complex in Chino, California. Back wages and unpaid overtime total more than $1.1million and in addition the state issued about $200,000 in penalties.
“Quetico is strict when it comes to enforcing its rules with workers so it is only fair that the state enforce the laws that the company broke,” said Abraham Guzman, a warehouse worker who has been at Quetico for about two and a half years. “I am satisfied that the law will now be followed and workers have won justice.”
Last year workers brought concerns to the Warehouse Worker Resource Center, an advocacy organization that works with Warehouse Workers United. Workers showed that they were missing pay for time worked, missed lunch periods, warehouse time clocks were faulty, workers pay stubs had been adjusted by the company reducing their pay and workers said that if they complained managers would issue a warning and restore their pay. After three warnings workers are fired.
“Workers face particularly egregious working conditions at Quetico,” said Guadalupe Palma, a director with Warehouse Workers United. “Workers were routinely punished if they asked to be paid for the time they worked. Many workers opted not to receive the pay they were owed just to keep their jobs.”
Workers at the three-building warehouse complex label, tag and pack apparel and shoes for major brand names and retailers including Walmart, Levi’s, Maidenform and Puma.
The Quetico warehouse has been cited numerous times in the last year by multiple state agencies. In May the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, fined the warehouse for unsafe working conditions including inadequate access to bathrooms. In June, the DLSE determined that at least three workers were retaliated against and had their pay docked for requesting to be paid for missing wages. In addition, several workers have filed federal charges with the National Labor Relations Board for retaliation.
“Many problems that we commonly see in Southern California warehouses are concentrated at this warehouse,” Palma said. “We are grateful that the state has taken such dramatic action.”
Warehouse workers at a nearby facility that moves merchandise exclusively for Walmart and is operated by Schneider Logistics filed a federal lawsuit in October 2011 alleging massive wage and hour violations at a Walmart-contracted warehouse in Southern California. In January Judge Christina Snyder ruled that Walmart can be added as a defendant in the lawsuit to recover millions of dollars in stolen wages.