Two Philly Walmart workers sue retail giant for alleged labor violations

Two Philly Walmart workers sue retail giant for alleged labor violations

Two former Walmart employees on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the retail giant, claiming the company violated their rights to a predictable and regular schedule.

Donald Washington and Symone Wilder, both former employees at the Bustleton Walmart on Roosevelt Boulevard, filed a class action suit against Walmart on Tuesday, claiming the company regularly violated Philadelphia’s Fair Workweek ordinance. Washington and Wilder are filing the suit on behalf of what could potentially be “thousands” of hourly, nonexempt Walmart employees in the city, said David Huang, an attorney on the suit who works at Community Legal Services.

“We take the requirements of the Philadelphia Fair Work Week Ordinance seriously and have policies in place to comply with it. We will respond to the lawsuit as appropriate once we are served with the complaint,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesperson, said in a statement.

Walmart isn’t the first large company to be challenged under Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week law, which took effect in 2020 and protects retail, hospitality and fast food workers’ rights to consistent hours. The city ordered Target to pay 70 employees a total of more than $22,000 last year in response to similar complaints.

Washington, 33, told The Inquirer that he’d often have unexpected scheduled changes midway through his shift. The abrupt changes that he said were unannounced made it difficult for him to find childcare for his now-7-year-old son, forcing the former manager to have a cousin in New Jersey babysit on short notice.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia makes Target pay workers $22,000 for violating city’s Fair Workweek law

Often, Washington wouldn’t be notified of a schedule change, finding out when he finished his shift and checked the website where Walmart posted employees’ schedules. Washington said he would also regularly be asked to work a 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. closing shift and a 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. opening shift just hours later.

“They’d put me on a schedule and while I was at work, they would just change the schedule while I’m at work, without even letting me know what’s going on,” he said.

Both Washington and Wilder were hourly employees at the store.

The suit, filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, alleges that Walmart disregarded numerous requirements of the city’s Fair Workweek ordinance and is liable for damages. According to the suit, Walmart failed to provide and post work schedules with advanced notice, failed to compensate workers for late changes to work schedules, and scheduled workers without the required time off between shifts.

» READ MORE: Mayor Kenney signs Philly’s ‘Fair Workweek’ law

The Philadelphia Fair Workweek ordinance, which took effect in April 2020, is a city law that gives workers in the covered industries the right to consistent hours so they can better plan and schedule their lives. The city law applies to relevant companies that have 250 or more employees and more than 30 locations, including Walmart, which has more than 10,000 stores worldwide and employs 2.3 million workers.

The law requires companies to give workers two weeks’ notice of schedules, pay a premium if schedules are changed after that window, and offer available shifts to current workers instead of hiring new ones. Under the city law, nine hours of rest is required between shifts.

City Councilmember Helen Gym, who introduced the bill along with seven co-sponsors in 2018, said the lawsuit shows that Philadelphia workers have rights that will be protected.

“These abusive practices impacted people when they were not on the job,” Gym said. “This was not about work being done on the job. This was about certain practices by employers who should know better and can do better, were impacting lives when they were not on the job.”

According to a Community Legal Services statement, Wilder also endured abrupt and unpredictable schedule changes. Her situation came to a head when Wilder had to work while pregnant in 2020, being pushed to work more hours without enough rest. She too often found it difficult for her to arrange childcare for her toddler because of her work hours.

“I didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t the right thing to do.”

“As the minimum wage stays nationwide very low, a lot of studies on what issues are barriers from getting out of poverty and one of the big things is inconsistent schedules” said Sally Abrahamson, a co-counsel on the suit. “Mr. Washington gives a perfect example of that. Childcare is impossible to schedule when you don’t know what your regular schedule is.”

Washington told his manager at Walmart several times that he needed a schedule that wasn’t so erratic and that it was becoming difficult for him to balance his home life and plan ahead. But his complaints fell on deaf ears, he said, and he continued to put up with the situation because he needed to provide for his son.

It wasn’t until he spoke with an associate that he learned his schedule might have legal protection.

“I didn’t know what they were doing wasn’t the right thing to do. Honestly I needed the job. That was my main priority: to take care of my son,” he said. Then one of my associates explained to me that it wasn’t correct what they were doing and said I should reach out to a lawyer to figure out what’s going on. I reached out to a lawyer and now we’re here.”

This content was originally published here.

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