Wage Violations at Warehouse Amount to $1.3 Million

A warehouse ordered to pay $1.3 million for overtime and back pay.

Jan 31, 2013— -- State labor regulators recently issued a citation to a Southern California warehouse operator for wage theft involving 865 workers. As a result, the company has to pay $1.3 million in overtime, penalties and other meal period violations.

California Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su issued the citation Monday to Quetico for its two warehouses in the city of Chino. The $1.1 million in overtime and back pay and $200,000 in state-issued penalties comes as an advocacy group for warehouse workers, Warehouse Workers United, campaigns to connect Walmart to workplace violations in the same logistics hub.

An investigation by the Labor Commissioner revealed that Quetico had established restrictive procedures that shorted workers their wages. Workers were required to punch in using only three time clocks, resulting in long lines that left them unable to punch in on time. Similarly, long lines to punch in and out during their meal period cut into their 30-minute lunch break. Workers were issued warning for punching in late while the company altered their time records to reflect that employees had had a full meal break, according to the state.

Quetico, which handles merchandize for Walmart and other big-box retailers, penalized workers who complained about the unpaid wages. It retaliated with disciplinary measures and suspended three workers who filed complaints, according to the state.

"Wage theft takes many forms. My office will crack down on any employer who is taking hard-earned wages from workers by falsifying time cards and systematically preventing employees from taking a full meal break," said Su in a statement. "We are also intent on eliminating the competitive advantages that labor law violators gain over employers who play by the rules."

Quetico denied any wrongdoing and said it plans to appeal.

"The notion that Quetico systematically prevented employees from receiving the wages and benefits to which they are entitled under California law is outrageous, misleading and false," it said in a statement.

Still, workers praised the development saying it was fair.

"Quetico is strict when it comes to enforcing its rules with workers so it is only fair that the state enforce the laws that the company broke," said worker Abraham Guzman, in a statement by Warehouse Workers United. "I am satisfied that the law will now be followed and workers have won justice."