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Court Finds Warehouse Operator Coerced Employees into Signing Favorable Statements
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U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder ruled this week in a class action that a Southern California warehouse operator had used coercive and misleading tactics when interviewing employees on working conditions.

The court found that attorneys representing the Wal-Mart contractor Schneider Logistics in Loma, California did not disclose to the employees while interviewing them that their responses could be used in court to support the defense of their employer.

The judge observed, “While the deceptive nature of the interviews is sufficient to support a finding that improper communications have taken place, the Court also finds that the interviews were impermissibly coercive.”

  
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In the instant case, a group of Schneider employees had sued the company last year over allegations that an alternative work-week arrangement created wage violations and often resulted in unpaid overtime. Following the lawsuit, employees of the company were called to a manager’s office and asked for statements on working conditions for an “internal investigation.”

Later, the company filed 106 such sworn declarations from employees in the court to substantiate its defense.

The court noted that out of 120 employees called to the manager’s room, only six declined to sign and only five left the voluntary interview. According to the judge, those numbers were sufficient to indicate the “interviewing attorney’s grant of permission to leave did little to dispel the aura of coercion.”

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The court also ruled that henceforth, Schneider Logistics and its attorneys should not communicate with potential class members about the lawsuit without prior written permission from the court. The 106 sworn declarations submitted by the company would not be admissible in the matter, and any declarations signed prior to the filing of the class action lawsuit will not be considered.

The class will seek certification once discovery process is completed.





 

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