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California Wage Theft Rampant

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A number of wage theft class action lawsuits have been filed in California in the past month alone.

Santa Clara, CAAt least three class action lawsuits alleging wage theft violations have been filed in California courts within the last month. Vitamin Shoppe, Hyatt Regency Long Beach and Lowe’s are accused of violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and California labor laws. And each lawsuit blames understaffing for labor violations.

From hotels to car washes to retail giants, an estimated $50 billion is wrongfully withheld from workers each year, reports CBS News, and wage theft has caused California workers to lose hundreds of millions of dollars, despite stringent California labor laws. CBS News analyzed data obtained by CalMatters, from the California Department of Industrial Relations, and found tens of thousands of cases across California: 63,442 claims of wage theft since 2017, totaling more than half a billion dollars, at $558,617,654. Given the wage theft class actions filed this month alone, not much has changed since 2017.

Vitamin Shoppe class action lawsuit 

A class action lawsuit was filed on February 1st  by two former employees against Vitamin Shoppe Industries LLC. Plaintiffs Jennifer Reyes Whitt and Wendy Rincon allege the nutritional supplements retailer required employees to work through their meal and rest breaks due to “chronic understaffing”; they often worked about an hour off the clock every week calling and texting with supervisors and coworkers about store issues, and they weren’t provided with accurate records of their hours. Their complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges the company violated the FLSA and California employment laws by:
  • Failing to pay workers’ proper overtime
  • Failing to pay minimum wage for all hours works
  • Failing to give its workers proper meal breaks or rest periods
  • Not reimbursing employees for business expenditures
  • Not providing accurate wage statements
According to the lawsuit, Whitt experienced all of the above FLSA violations while she worked for Vitamin Shoppe from November 2013 to April 2022. Rincon, who worked for the company from August 2020 to August 2022, claims she also is the victim of wage theft. Both women worked an average of 45 hours per week. The plaintiffs seek to represent all current or former hourly, non-exempt employees employed by Vitamin Shoppe Industries LLC in the U.S. in the past three years, plus a California subclass. 
The Vitamin Shoppe class action lawsuit is Jessica Reyes Whitt, et al. v. Vitamin Shoppe Industries LLC, et al., Case No. 5:23-cv-00169.

As of early February 2023, there are 699 Vitamin Shoppe stores in the U.S.  According to Wikipedia, the company made $751.5 million in net sales in fiscal 2010 and had a market capitalization of over $1 billion. Since attaining its peak in February 2013, the stock has lost more than 90% of its value as of August 2017.

Lowe’s Home Centers LLC Class Action Lawsuit

A class action similar to Vitamin Shoppe was filed by eight current and former Lowe’s employees claiming they were not paid accurate wages and worked through their breaks. The complaint, filed January 31st in federal court, alleges Lowe’s violated the FLSA and California labor laws by failing to:
  • Pay overtime wages
  • Provide rest and meal breaks
  • Maintain accurate records for hours worked
  • Pay wages when due
  • Provide accurate wage statements
  • Reimburse work-related expenses
  • Pay all wages due upon an employee’s termination
The plaintiffs claim they were not allowed time to take an uninterrupted 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked due to constant work demands and staffing shortages; they were often unable to take an uninterrupted 30-minute lunch break and were not compensated at a premium wage when their meal break was missed, short, late or interrupted, reports Top Class Actions.

The Lowe’s class action lawsuit is Juan Rodriguez, et al. v. Lowe’s Home Centers LLC, Case No. 3:23-cv-00453-TSH, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Lagunitas Brewing Company Class Action

A former Lagunitas Brewing Company worker alleges that the craft brewery violated California’s Labor Code by:
  • Failing to provide workers required meal and rest breaks,
  • Failing to provide proper wages for missed breaks,
  • Failing to pay proper minimum and overtime wages,
  • Failing to compensate for off-the-clock work
  • Failing to reimburse costs for employees using their personal cell phones for work-related tasks.
  • Unlawfully deducting wages, such as 401(k) contributions, from employees’ pay without explanation or permission.
According to the lawsuit, plaintiff Trevor Coffey contends that workers didn’t take meal breaks or rest breaks due to Lagunitas’ “rigorous work requirements” and “inadequate staffing practices.” Further, they were also asked to work off the clock before and after their shifts to meet the brewery’s “strict requirements” or to undergo pre-shift COVID-19 health screenings for which they received no pay.

The lawsuit Coffey V. Lagunitas Brewing  Company, Case 4:23-cv-00219-KAW, filed in Superior Court of California, County of Sonoma, seeks to represent anyone employed by Lagunitas Brewing Company in California and classified as a non-exempt employee within the past four years.


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