Andrew Rubin, Esq.

New Jersey janitors lose another civil appeal against Wal-Mart

Receiving an unfavorable result at trial can be very frustrating, especially if the stakes of a case are high. Luckily, the trial court's judgment is not always the last word, and filing a civil appeal often leads to a more acceptable outcome. However, civil appeals are very complicated and it is often best to go into an appeals case with a fresh perspective.

Earlier this month, a crew of janitors in New Jersey lost an appeal against Wal-Mart. The U.S. 3rd Circuit said the janitors had not sufficiently pleaded their case, which accused Wal-Mart of various employment law violations as well as well as taking part in a racketeering effort to encourage illegal immigration.

The janitors' accusations were threefold:

  1. Although the janitors were placed in Wal-Mart stores by contractors, they said Wal-Mart held hiring and firing authority that made the store their employer under federal labor laws. This meant that they were underpaid.
  2. The janitors accused Wal-Mart of conspiracy, money laundering and involuntary servitude by allegedly taking part in a racketeering scheme that involved transporting and harboring illegal immigrants.
  3. Finally, the janitors said that cleaning crews were falsely imprisoned when Wal-Mart locked them in stores overnight.

The court opinion states that the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient evidence for some of the claims, and on the false imprisonment charge the court sided with Wal-Mart that said emergency exits were available and store managers had keys onsite.

Interestingly, Wal-Mart has already settled wage claims of some plaintiffs through multiple settlements as far back as 2005. Additionally, Wal-Mart has agreed to pay $11 million to settle federal accusations regarding using illegal immigrants for cleaning duties.

Source: The City Wire, "New Jersey janitors lose civil appeal against Wal-Mart ," Kim Souza, Aug. 10, 2012

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