Lawsuit claims Wal-Mart violated various Illinois, federal labor laws

This October, twenty plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart and two of its staffing agencies, claiming the companies violated state and federal labor laws. The lawsuit prompts a closer look at the protections granted to workers under Illinois law and the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

The allegations against Wal-Mart and its staffing agencies

Wal-Mart and two of its staffing agencies, Labor Ready Midwest and QPS Employment Group, are accused of violating overtime and minimum wage laws, abuses that may have affected hundreds of temporary workers hired to stock shelves and perform other duties during the holiday season.

One of the initial twenty plaintiffs claimed that Wal-Mart required workers to work late, show up early to shifts and skip lunch, all without pay. The lawsuit also claims the company did not pay temporary workers the Illinois minimum wage four hours the employees were contracted to work but not needed.

Wal-Mart is no stranger to lawsuits over questionable labor practices. The company has settled with employees in the past over disputes about wage deprivation and has a reputation for union-busting. If the plaintiffs are successful, they will have proved the company violated provisions of the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act as well as the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Illinois' Day and Temporary Labor Services Act

The state of Illinois has laws that protect the labor rights of day and temporary workers like the plaintiffs in the Wal-Mart class-action suit. The law was established to protect these workers, who lawmakers believe are "particularly vulnerable" to labor rights abuses. Day and temporary workers often fall victim to minimum wage violations, overtime rule violations, failure to be paid and failure to be paid for all hours worked.

Under the law, day and temporary workers must get employment notices from their staffing agencies that identify the day or days to be worked, the nature of the work, wages and whether or not meals and transportation will be provided.

After the work is complete, day and temporary workers should receive paystubs that include hours worked, the rate of payment per hour, the total amount earned during the pay period and any deductions for transportation, meals, equipment or taxes.

Another provision of the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act is that employers are required to pay workers at least four hours' wages on days the workers are contracted to work but are not used, unless the worker is reassigned elsewhere. The Wal-Mart suit claims the company failed to pay temporary workers on days they were contracted to work but were not needed.

The Fair Labor Standards Act

Employees are protected from labor rights abuses by the Fair Labor Standards Act. The federal law establishes overtime pay and a national minimum wage as well as standards for recordkeeping and youth employment .

Currently, the national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, though states can adopt their own minimum wages. Workers are entitled to the higher minimum wage. The Illinois minimum wage is $8.25 for adults at least 18 years old, and workers under 18 may be paid up to $.50 less per hour than adult workers.

Additionally, the FLSA requires employers to pay workers time and a half for any hours worked beyond the established 40-hour workweek. The law also requires employers to pay workers for all hours worked.

Both federal and Illinois labor laws protect Chicago workers from unfair and illegal labor practices. If you are a temporary worker and believe your employer is withholding wages or is requiring you to work without pay, please contact an experienced employment law attorney.