Labor Commissioner Cites Southern California Warehouse over $1 Million for Wage Theft
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 28, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su today issued citations to Quetico, LLC, a Chino warehouse and distribution company, for overtime violations and failure to provide a required 30-minute meal period to employees. The citations for the overtime wages, penalties, and meal period violations involving 865 employees total more than $1 million.
"The Labor Commissioner has reinvigorated enforcement at the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement and is serious about addressing violations of basic labor laws," said Christine Baker, director of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, also known as the California Labor Commissioner's Office, is a division of DIR.
The Labor Commissioner's investigation revealed that Quetico, LLC had established restrictive procedures which shorted workers their wages. The company operates two warehouses on a complex occupying half a million square feet, an area the equivalent of just under 20 football fields.
The warehouse required employees to punch in but provided only three time clocks for their workers, resulting in long lines of more than 100 employees. Workers who arrived to work on time but waited in line to punch in were given "warnings" for punching in late. This created a situation where employees were obliged to report to work earlier and earlier, time for which they were not compensated. When employees punched out for their meal period, they were also required to stand in long lines, which cut into their 30-minute lunch break and forced them to come back early to punch back in. The company would alter their time records to reflect that the employees had been allotted the full 30-minute lunch break.
"Wage theft takes many forms. My office will crack down on any employer who is taking hard-earned wages from workers by falsifying time cards and systematically preventing employees from taking a full meal break," said Labor Commissioner Su. "We are also intent on eliminating the competitive advantages that labor law violators gain over employers who play by the rules."
Additionally, the Labor Commissioner's investigation revealed that Quetico penalized workers who complained about the unpaid wages. A retaliation investigation concluded that the employer had issued disciplinary memos and suspended three workers who filed complaints with the Labor Commissioner. The workers' records have been corrected and Quetico has made a commitment to make permanent changes to the punch card policy to avoid further labor law violations.
Quetico's Chino facilities move products for big box retailers with merchandise including shoes, apparel and electronics. The workers package merchandise that is then sent out to stores and other distribution centers.
The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Labor Standards Enforcement adjudicates wage claims, investigates discrimination and public works complaints, and enforces state labor law and Industrial Welfare Commission wage orders. Information on the functions of the California Labor Commissioner is available on the DIR website as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
Employees with work-related questions or complaints may call the California Workers' Information Hotline at (866) 924-9757 for recorded information on a variety of work related topics.
SOURCE California Department of Industrial Relations, California Labor Commissioner