A class-action lawsuit filed last November received a recent federal ruling regarding whether a company can be sued for workplace violations conducted by one of its contractors. The company at the heart of the employee rights case is none other than retail giant Walmart, which has fought hard to avoid being targeted in the lawsuit filed in California. The suit alleges that workers at three warehouses were subjected to employment violations including wage and hour matters and other related concerns.
Walmart and other retailers claim that they have no responsibility toward the workers employed by contractors hired to handle warehouse employment. The operators of the warehouses hired a two subcontracting companies to staff and run the warehouse operations, and also claim to have no responsibility. However, legal counsel for the workers asserts that all of these entities share responsibility for the workplace conditions of these employees, an approach which was in line with the recent ruling by the state's highest court.
The case will move forward with Walmart and all other parties as defendants. The ruling, as well as the eventual outcome of this California case, could help improve working conditions for all workers in the warehousing industry. One professor of sociology at UC Riverside believes that the ruling sends a message to all retailers that they share in the responsibility to ensure that workers are treated fairly and within the guidelines of state labor laws.
The recent employee rights decision certainly clarifies the state's belief that large-scale companies have a responsibility to ensure that their contractors are providing a proper work environment for all employees, regardless of the degree of separation from the end client. The decision could lead other workers to file similar complaints, when they have been subjected to mistreatment within the scope of their jobs. For such workers, the first step is determining their right to legal recourse under California law.
Source: DailyBulletin.com, "Class-action lawsuit aimed at Walmart," Canan Tasci, May 17, 2013