Alleging underpayment, day laborers take temp agencies to court

A California-based temp agency faces charges that they have been scamming employees out of wages for years.

On December 10, 2009, a group of Illinois day laborers filed a class action lawsuit against the temporary employment agency SelectRemedy, for allegedly shorting their wages, withholding overtime, and even paying some workers less than minimum wage.

Temporary employment is quickly becoming one of the fastest-growing sectors in the job market, and staffing agencies are increasingly competitive. Companies feel strong pressure to cut expenses, which often means bidding contracts low and cheating employees out of their rightful wages, in order to turn a profit.

The plaintiffs were mainly employed at an Elmwood, Illinois warehouse that handles shipping for Walmart, while others worked for various third party companies, such as Pampered Chef.

The workers are represented by Chris Williams, the executive director of the Working Hands Legal Clinic in Chicago, who filed the suit under the state’s Day Labor and Temporary Services Act, rather than under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is commonly cited for employment violations and complaints. The Day Labor and Temporary Services Act allows the plaintiffs to sue third parties that are contracted with SelectRemedy, although no other parties have been named in the suit.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the plaintiffs picketed a West-side Chicago Walmart, making statements to reporters that they are being defrauded and Walmart is reaping the benefit. One protestor held paystubs that showed he had worked 57 hours and been paid for 35 of them.

Williams says that his office has seen a spike in similar complaints, particularly around the holiday season when company budgets are at their tightest. He feels that day laborers are defrauded the most, as they are the workers who are uneducated and least likely to complain. He hopes that the lawsuit will be an example to companies who practice this type of dishonesty.

If you have worked for a temp agency and think that the company’s compensation policies may have violated your rights, then please Pogust Braslow & Millrood for a free consultation.