Posted August 10th, 2009.
California Class Action Details Oil Giant’s Illegal Labor Practices
$100 Million Sought in Back Pay and Damages Under Federal and State Laws
For more information, contact Jamie Moss, newsPRos, (646) 681-7373
(August 10, 2009, San Francisco, CA) – Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE:VLO), one of the nation’s largest gas station operators, has been cheating thousands of its hourly employees out of millions of dollars in overtime wages for years charges a class action lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco). The suit describes how Valero – the 10th largest company on the Fortune 500 list — underpays employees who work in its nearly 6,000 “Corner Stores,” which sell gas and snacks to customers across the U.S. under the brand names Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, Ultramar, Beacon, and Stop N Go.
With revenues of $119 billion in 2008 and approximately 22,000 employees, Valero — the largest oil refiner in North America — has cornered the convenience store market with “sweat of the brow” labor practices. The oil behemoth requires its retail employees to work punishingly long overtime hours “off-the-clock” without pay to keep thousands of Valero corner stores open “round-the-clock” while the company earns massive profits.
“To keep its gas pumps flowing, Valero virtually pumps the lifeblood out of its workers who are expected to be on call 24-7, but are only paid for a fraction of the time they spend working,” said Steven L. Wittels of Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, one of the country’s leading class action firms with offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC. “This class action aims to turn off this oil Goliath’s unfair pay practices.”
While the massive refining company depicts itself as “refining” the way it does business and providing a worker-friendly environment, the reality is shockingly different. “When it comes to its employees,” adds Mr. Wittels, “the only thing Valero has refined is how best to fleece its employees out of their wages.”
Brought by three current and former California employees, Dorothy McCarthy, Sarndra McKnight, and Janice Clifton, the class and collection action seeks to represent thousands of similarly underpaid Valero employees through the United States.
“Even though the oil company knows full well that its workers are virtually chained to the pumps,” said Janette Wipper, an attorney at Sanford Wittels & Heisler, LLP, “management has failed to lessen their workload or pay them mandatory overtime compensation as required by law.”
According to the Complaint, the monster energy retailer fails to pay its corner store employees for mandatory “off-the-clock” work, “on-call” time, or overtime wages for work in excess of 40 hours a week and eight hours a day; fails to provide its workers with mandatory meal periods and rest breaks; and makes unlawful deductions from employees’ earned wages.
“Valero’s wrongful practices violate federal and state wage and hour laws,” said plaintiffs’ counsel Jeremy Heisler. “We are long past the era when workers were forced to eat their bread by the sweat of their brow. Not only must Valero’s unfair labor practices be stopped, but the hourly employees who have been and continue to be exploited by these practices must be promptly and appropriately compensated for all hours worked.”
“These unfair labor practices should have gone the way of the horse and buggy,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel, Michael Ram. “Valero needs to wake up to the 21st Century: when you work, the company’s got to pay you — simple as that.”
The named Plaintiffs Ms. McCarthy, Ms. McKnight, and Ms. Clinton seek tens of thousands of dollars from Valero for each work worker who was underpaid in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA); the California Labor Code; and the California Business and Professions Code. The FLSA claims are brought on behalf of all Valero non-exempt Corner Store workers, including store managers and assistant managers, who worked at any Valero retail store or Valero-operated brand name store in the nation.
“Even though Valero’s corner stores are open around the clock, seven days a week, every day of the year, the company assigns just one store manager to each corner store,” said plaintiff Ms. McCarthy. “This makes every manager’s workweek significantly longer than 40 hours, but we are not paid for these additional hours, and we are not provided time for meals or rest breaks. The company’s swept our complaints under the rug for years. This class action is the only hope we have of being paid for the work we actually do and getting the breaks we’re entitled to.”
Plaintiffs’ attorneys, Sanford Wittels & Heisler, estimate the Company’s liability at $100 million. The class-action suit demands that Valero immediately pay all unpaid wages due the plaintiffs and members of the class plus all damages permitted by California and federal wage and hour laws, as well as stop its unlawful pay practices.
Sanford Wittels & Heisler (SWH) is a renowned class-action law firm with offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco that specializes in employment discrimination, wage and hour, consumer and complex corporate class action litigation and has represented thousands of individuals in some of the major class action cases in the United States. The firm also represents individual clients in employment, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, whistleblower, public accommodations, commercial, medical malpractice, and personal injury matters. Co-counsel Michael Ram and Karl Olson of Ram & Olson (San Francisco) have joined SWH in bringing the suit.