Wal-Mart faces suit for employment wrongs

More wage and hour claims are plaguing the corporate behemoth Wal-Mart. The company is facing another lawsuit after reportedly violating minimum wage requirements throughout the nation. Wal-Mart is also accused of violating overtime rules, requiring temporary employees to show up early, work late and continue working through lunch.

The workers, who were contracted through two separate staffing agencies, filed a class-action suit against the big-box retailer early last week. The implications for this suit are important for temporary workers throughout the nation.

The civil suit comes after a series of protests that resulted in the first-ever strike against Wal-Mart in early October. Store employees, empowered by the organization OUR Wal-Mart, walked off the job in major cities including Los Angeles and Dallas, according to media reports. Strikes have also been held at some Southern California warehouses because of untenable working conditions, according to experts, and employees at a distribution center in Illinois have also prompted work stoppages.

Throughout the past decade, Wal-Mart’s employment practices have come under fire from both workers and the general public. A 2008 agreement required the company to pay more than $600 million to settle a bundle of state and federal class-action employment lawsuits. The company was accused of withholding wages as a part of those suits, as well.

Additionally, temporary employees are also alleging that Wal-Mart failed to pay the four hours of wages owed on days when a worker was contracted but not utilized. Civil cases involving temporary employees are sometimes more complicated than those that deal only with directly employed workers. Temporary employees receive their paychecks through the agencies that send them to the worksites, but they are accountable to supervisors at the site. Both Wal-Mart and the staffing agency share responsibility for ensuring that the workers have been paid.

It can seem intimidating to pursue legal action against a large company, and some employees who have been wronged may be tempted to simply give up and accept it. To do this, however, not only allows an injustice to go unpunished, but it also clears the way for a company to carry out their injustices on other workers in the future. In this case, Wal-Mart employees seem to be trusting in strength in numbers to empower them as they move forward with their litigation. It is not clear how much the workers are seeking in compensatory damages.

Source: Reuters, “Wal-Mart hit with minimum wage lawsuit as walkout threat looms,” Oct. 22, 2012.

Employer accused of forcing employee to house prostitutes

Some duties that employees are forced to tend to from day to day are simply part of the job. When executives force their employees to do things outside the realm of the workplace, employment violations begin to crop up.

An employment law suit filed by a Florida employee of a debt collection company claims that his boss ordered him to provide housing to prostitutes in his home, and tormented him in other ways. He argues that these actions should be sufficient grounds for voiding his employment contract.

During his 10 year stint with the firm, he asserts, he experienced various objectionable office pranks, found that his co-workers engaged in widespread drug use and that his boss used his home for assignations with prostitutes he wished to have sex with.

His boss did this because he needed a place to engage in sex with the prostitutes, as the man was married, according to the plaintiff. The employee also discovered that one of these prostitutes was left overnight in his residence.

To make matters worse, his boss also purportedly harassed his ill mother, and referred to her with a vulgar sexual nickname and other terms referring to her anatomy. The boss also sent false text messages to the man’s girlfriend, pretending to be him, trying to lure her to a dinner.

Not all the harassment was sexual, however. The boss also kept as much as half of all the commissions which the employee earned on successful collections, denying the employee a major part of his compensation, he claims.

Rightfully so, the employee wants to be awarded damages, including the withheld commissions, as well as to be released from his remaining contract with the company. The lawsuit was filed in a Florida state court. No worker should be forced to endure such a hostile work environment.

Source: Huff Post Small Business, “Mark Oliff, Florida Man, says Boss used his home for sex with prostitutes,” Sept. 28, 2012.