On May 20, 2015, a group of janitors working at Macy’s and Herberger’s stores in Minnesota filed a class action lawsuit accusing their employer of shortchanging their wages.
The lawsuit, which was filed this morning in Minnesota federal district court by attorneys at Nichols Kaster, PLLP, alleges a wide range of state and federal labor violations, including failure to pay minimum wage and overtime compensation.
The lawsuit does not name Macy’s or Herberger’s as a defendant, however. Instead, the complaint targets those companies’ policies of contracting out their store cleaning to the lowest bidder, policies which, according to the complaint, allow “unscrupulous subcontractors [to] compete for contracts by exploiting vulnerable workers.” Under this so called “fissured workplace” scheme, “some of the most egregious mistreatment of workers occurs right under the noses of some of Minnesota’s most esteemed businesses and retail establishments,” according the complaint.
The complaint names Capital Building Services Group, Inc., the company that holds cleaning contracts with Macy’s and Herberger’s, as the defendant. But companies like Macy’s and Herberger’s “benefit tremendously from this arrangement,” according the complaint: “Macy’s and Herberger’s get their stores cleaned for much less than it would otherwise cost to pay their own employees, legally, to do the same work. At the same time, Macy’s and Herberger’s effectively turn a blind eye to widespread violations of state and federal employment laws happening under their own roofs.”
The lawsuit describes a workplace where basic employment protections are disregarded. According to the complaint, “Capital tells its employees they will be paid minimum wage, but in practice their employees’ wages fall well short of minimum wage—in some cases as little as $4 or $5 an hour.” In addition, the complaint alleges that employees are not paid overtime when they work over forty hours in a workweek, and meal breaks are systematically deducted from employees’ hours worked, even when those breaks are not actually taken. Some employees have to purchase their own cleaning supplies, and these unreimbursed expenses cause employees’ wages to drop even further below minimum wage, according to the complaint. Employees are not provided pay stubs, according to the complaint, itself a violation of Minnesota labor law.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Adam Hansen stated, “This case is about respecting basic workplace protections. It is unfortunate that these types of unfair labor practices continue to happen in the retail cleaning industry.”
The complaint seeks lost wages for all workers who worked for the defendant within the past three years. The complaint also asks the court to issue an injunction requiring the defendant to follow the law moving forward.
Plaintiffs are represented by Adam W. Hansen, Carl F. Engstrom, and Paul J. Lukas from Nichols Kaster, PLLP in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The case is entitled Hussein, et al. v. Capital Building Services Group, Inc., Case No. 0:15-cv-02498 (D. Minn.). For more information on this case please visit www.nka.com.