Class actions are an incredibly useful tool for plaintiffs, especially when each class member has a small claim against the defendant. A few dollars is hardly worth the cost of a lawsuit. Big companies can cheat their employees out of earned wages in small enough amounts that it is not worthwhile for the employees to take their employer to court. If this practice is distributed over many employees, the company can save a lot of money very quickly.
In most instances, these companies are large corporations with a team of skilled attorneys at their disposal, leaving employees with little or no leverage against their employer in the courts. However, many plaintiffs with small claims can band together to form a class. This will combine their claims into one very large claim and enable them to acquire their own team of attorneys to effectively face their defendant in court.
Recently, nine separate class action wage and hour lawsuits have been consolidated into one large lawsuit against Walgreens Co. in California. The lawsuits allege that Walgreens’s chain of pharmacies required employees to stay overtime for security checks to make sure that employees were not illegally taking off with any merchandise. Such security checks are allowed under the relevant labor law, but if they are required by the employer and for the employer’s benefit, then the suit claims the workers must be paid for the time spent getting checked, and if necessary, waiting in line for their security checks.
The lawsuits further allege that Walgreens failed to provide its employees with all of the proper meal and rest breaks. According to California labor law, employers are required to provide all of their hourly workers with at least one paid, uninterrupted res break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked and one, unpaid, uninterrupted meal break lasting at least 30 minutes for every five hours worked.
Walgreens also allegedly failed to provide employees with itemized wage statements. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has strict requirements for providing employees with itemized wage statements that show the employee’s hourly rate, how many hours the employee worked, the pay period, etc. Failure to provide these itemized wage statements or to keep accurate records of all of this information could be construed by a court as a deliberate attempt to avoid paying employees all wages owed, including overtime when applicable. If a plaintiff can prove that a defendant’s failure to pay minimum wage or overtime was willful and intentional, rather than a mistake or an oversight, the result could be a much higher fine for the defendant in certain courts.
The lawsuits further allege that Walgreens failed to pay all wages owed to employees upon termination and failed to reimburse employees for business expenses, among other violations.
Rather than risk the unpredictable award ordered by the court, Walgreens has decided to settle the current lawsuits for $23 million, despite refusing to admit to violating the labor law. According to a Walgreens spokesperson, “We always have been and continue to be committed to paying our employees fairly and in compliance with the law. We believe that the claims made in the lawsuit are unfounded, but have entered into the proposed settlement in order to bring this litigation to a conclusion.”
The Chicago overtime lawyers at the Chicago Overtime Law Center are investigating unpaid overtime claims against large retail chains such as Walgreen’s, CVS, Urban Outfitters, GAP, Abercrombie & Fitch, Limited, Forever 21, Macy’s, Target, JC Penney’s, Lowes, Best Buy, Home Depot, Apple, Best Buy, Sears, K Mart, J.C Penney, Walmart and other retail chains for misclassifying employees as managers, erasing or altering time sheets or time records, pressuring workers not to report or record overtime, failing to pay for time spent on security checks, and otherwise failing to pay workers for overtime and other wages. If you are the victim this practice call us at (312) 869-4095 or contact us online.