Walmart added to lawsuit alleging wage theft at California warehouse

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Walmart trailers parked outside the Schneider Logistics warehouse in Mira Loma, Calif. Lawyers alleging wage theft from mostly immigrant Latino contract workers at the Southern California warehouse complex took steps to add Walmart as a defendant in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

Adithya Sambamurthy/Center For Investigative Reporting

A federal judge ruled Thursday that Walmart can be added to a lawsuit alleging widespread wage theft at a Southern California warehouse.

Lawyers for contract workers at the Schneider Logistics warehouse in Mira Loma, Calif. – whose sole customer is Walmart – had moved to add the retailer to the case in November.

Thursday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder will force Walmart to defend itself against allegations that Schneider, at Walmart’s behest, cheated as many as 1,800 low-wage workers out of millions of dollars.

Walmart fought becoming a late addition to the case, but Snyder wrote that the plaintiffs had a “good faith explanation that they did not seek to name Walmart as a defendant until this stage of the litigation because they only recently uncovered evidence in discovery that justifies a lawsuit against Walmart.”

The lawsuit, filed in October 2011, claims that Schneider and two staffing agencies, Premier Warehousing Ventures LLC and Impact Logistics Inc., failed to keep proper payroll records, falsified time sheets and misled workers about the amount of money they had earned.

All three companies have denied the allegations. The staffing agencies, however, agreed to pay a collective $450,000 in fines and back wages to settle citations issued by California labor officials after a warehouse raid last year. Schneider was not cited by the state.

Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Last November, he said: “While we have a set of quality standards that must be met, the third party service providers we utilize are responsible for running their day-to-day business. They manage their people completely independent of us.”