C&S, in a statement issued the same day, denied the allegations, saying they are "without merit. The company is confident that it will be completely vindicated on all counts," the statement said.
The four plaintiffs, Armando Hernandez, Michael Wands, Michael Rodrigues and Joseph Alvarez, are seeking $750 million in unpaid wages and overtime on behalf of thousands of warehouse selectors, lift operators, backhaulers and slot cleaners in the 14 states where C&S operates warehouses. The case applies to all piece-rate incentive warehouse workers who have been employed by C&S since 2000.
The suit alleges that C&S, which is based in Keene, NH, violated federal and state labor laws by illegally chopping workers' wages as punishment for mistakes on the job; failing to pay overtime; failing to pay for time worked in excess of 10 hours a day; failing to pay employees their agreed hourly rates; and encouraging employees to work off-the-clock and through lunch without pay.
"To make matters worse," explains Steven Wittels of the New York and Washington law firm of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, lead counsel for the workers, "C&S punishes an entire team of workers for one person's mistake. C&S employees work in four- to eight-member selection teams. If one team member makes an error, C&S collectively punishes everyone on that team and cuts their pay."
"Collective punishment echoes the employment practices of the Gulag labor camps," Wittels says. "There's no place for these kinds of tactics in 21st Century America."
But C&S defends the team concept, saying in the statement that it "does not in any way violate any law or regulation." It further called the concept "the cornerstone of creating an empowered and engaged workforce.
"Industry analysts and academics alike have praised the C&S team concept. Beyond that, a case study by one of the nation's premier business schools has taken a favorable position on the team concept in place at C&S," the company statement said.
"C&S is punishing its low-income workers at the same time the company is projecting record revenues of $18 billion this year," says Jeremy Heisler, co-lead counsel in the case. "Meanwhile, the hard-working employee making those profits possible has little choice but to keep quiet about the company's sweatshop practices or lose his job."
GMA Lays Framework For Future EPC/RFID Successes
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) unveiled its new proposals to speed adoption rates of the Electronic Product Code and radio frequency identification (EPC/RFID) during its Information Systems/Logistics Distribution Conference in Tucson, AZ, earlier this month.
Partnering with IBM Business Consulting Services, GMA surveyed CPG companies regarding their current and planned use of EPC/RFID technologies. The survey results, published in GMA's "EPC/RFID: Proposed Industry Adoption Framework," show that manufacturers believe in the long-term benefits of EPC/RFID, including improving promotion compliance, proof-of-delivery and out-of-stock rates, but struggle with the near-term business case.
"In the competitive CPG industry, companies are investing in resources and technologies that improve their performance and cut costs. Our survey found that many manufacturers recognize that EPC/RFID is just one of the tools that they can use to meet both of those goals. However, EPC/RFID is not a one-size-fits-all technology, and manufacturers continue to face challenges in implementing it because of ongoing technology, data, and business process challenges," says Pam Stegeman GMA vice president of supply chain and technology.
To overcome the challenges the industry faces, GMA's report outlines a framework for manufacturers to use as they discuss the best ways to prioritize EPC/RFID deployment with retailers and technology suppliers. GMA's recommended framework sets out three tiers: