CONTACT: Lauren Teukolsky
Traber & Voorhees
PASADENA, Calif. – A federal court in Los Angeles ruled that WalMart warehouse operator Schneider Logistics engaged in “deceptive” and “coercive” practices towards its employees in connection with a class action lawsuit alleging labor violations in three warehouses in Mira Loma, California that Schneider operates on behalf of WalMart.
The Court issued a directive that Schneider obtain prior Court permission before communicating further with its employees about the lawsuit, and ordered that a notice be sent from the Court to all of Schneider’s Mira Loma employees informing them that Schneider cannot retaliate against them for cooperating with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“This is a huge victory,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Lauren Teukolsky of Traber & Voorhees. “This sends a message to Schneider that it cannot intimidate its workers or retaliate against those who stand up for their rights.”
Three weeks after the plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in March 2012, a team of Schneider’s attorneys obtained 106 statements signed under penalty of perjury from its own employees about their working conditions. Schneider refuses to produce copies of the statements, but said in court documents that they relate to labor issues like overtime wages and meal and rest breaks.
Schneider obtained the statements during one-on-one meetings held between attorneys and employees in a manager’s office in the warehouses during working hours. Many employees were ordered to report to the manager’s office over the warehouse loudspeaker, without being told why they were being summoned. The attorneys told the employees that the meeting was “informal,” and that Schneider was simply gathering information for “internal research” purposes. But this communication was, in the Court’s words, “fundamentally misleading and deceptive” because Schneider’s true purpose was to have the employees sign formal statements under penalty of perjury which Schneider could later use against the employees in the class action lawsuit. The Court further ruled that the interviews were “impermissibly coercive” because employees believed they had no choice but to cooperate with Schneider.
“The attorneys did not translate my statement into Spanish before I signed it,” said Joel Alvarado, a former Schneider employee who signed a statement in April 2012. Like several employees in the warehouses, Mr. Alvarado is a Spanish-speaker who does not consider himself fluent in English, particularly when it comes to a formal legal document signed under penalty of perjury. “They never told me that I was signing a statement under penalty of perjury that would be given to the Court. They made me believe that it was just a summary of the conversation.” Mr. Alvarado estimates that about 80% of the workers in the warehouse speak Spanish.
“I am very pleased with the Court’s decision,” said Walter Downing, another employee interviewed by Schneider’s attorneys in April 2012. Mr. Downing, who worked for Schneider since 2006, was one of only a handful employees who refused to sign a statement. Schneider fired him a month later. He is now one of four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The case is Quezada v. Schneider Logistics Transloading and Distribution, Inc., Case No. CV 12-2188 CAS (DTBx). Plaintiffs are represented by Traber & Voorhees in Pasadena. The federal judge who issued the order is Christina A. Snyder, the same judge who is presiding over a related action against Schneider on behalf of a different group of workers in the same WalMart warehouses. In the related action, Carrillo v. Schneider Logistics, the Court has entered two preliminary injunctions against Schneider to stop unlawful labor practices.