INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Workers for a chain of Wisconsin-based home improvement stores have begun filing wage theft lawsuits against them in federal court over allegations that the company has engaged in rampant and systematic wage theft against employees across the Midwest. The claims against Menards allege that the company made illegal deductions to employee paychecks for short breaks and outright refused to pay workers one and a half times their average hourly wages when working more than 40 hours in a week.
According to one lawsuit, filed in federal District Court in Indiana, Menards used a “compensation scheme” where workers were required to clock out for very short breaks, including periods of time to use the toilet, get a glass of water, smoke cigarettes, or any other amount of time spent not working. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), workers are entitled to take short breaks to use the bathroom or take a rest as this type of activity is common and necessary for worker health and productivity in any industry.
Another lawsuit, filed in federal District Court in Ohio, claims that the plaintiff routinely worked 45 to 50 hours per week in one of the defendant’s distribution centers but did not receive one and a half times his average hourly rate of pay. That complaint also includes that the defendant did not pay workers for the time spent attending mandatory company warehouse safety meetings. Under the FLSA, workers must be compensated for all their time spent on the job, regardless of whether or not they are performing their regular duties.
In response, the defendant has denied all the allegations laid out in three lawsuits and has gone as far as to claim the workers signed arbitration agreements that require aggrieved employee to resolve their disputes in an administrative setting. However, the plaintiffs counter that the defendant relinquished its control over workers in arbitration hearings as part of an agreement with federal regulators in 2016 over allegations that the company engaged in unfair labor practices.
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