In a tentative ruling released minutes ago, District Court Judge Christina Snyder signaled she intends to grant a request to add Walmart as a named defendant in a federal class action lawsuit over alleged wage theft at its California distribution centers. The ruling is a setback for the retail giant, which has maintained that it is not legally responsible for the alleged abuses by its contractors and subcontractors. Judge Snyder will hear arguments from attorneys for both sides today, and could issue a final ruling within hours.
Walmart did not respond to a Saturday request for comment on the case, and did not immediately respond to an inquiry regarding the decision. A spokesperson for Warehouse Workers United, the union-affiliated group supporting the plantiffs, said that attorneys were not immediately available to comment given the hearing underway. The tentative ruling follows strikes by subcontracted warehouse workers in California and Illinois, and increased scrutiny regarding Walmart contracting in the United States and abroad.
As The Nation has reported, the lawsuit was brought by warehouse workers moving Walmart goods in Southern California’s Inland Empire. The workers were employed by staffing companies, which were subcontracted by the logistics company Schneider, which was hired by Walmart. In 2011, after workers filed a federal lawsuit and instigated a state investigation of alleged wage and hour violations, subcontractor Rogers-Premier announced a mass layoff of one warehouse’s entire workforce. Those terminations were blocked last February, by a rare federal district court restraining order.
The same court allowed Schneider—rather than just its subcontractors—to be named as a defendant in the class action suit over the alleged wage theft, Everardo Carrillo, et al. v. Schneider Logistics, Inc., et al. On November 30, the workers’ attorneys petitioned the court to add Walmart as a defendant as well, based on evidence garnered during the discovery process. They said that the workers exclusively moved Walmart products, and that Walmart instructed Schneider when to refill ink in its printers, and how many workers to assign to unload a particular truck.