The Los Angeles area has traditionally served as a destination for many immigrants. Today, an estimated 35 percent of L.A. County residents are immigrants and 44 percent of households in the County are “headed by an immigrant.” For the men and women who immigrate to the U.S. and decide to make the Los Angeles area their new home, finding a well-paying job can be challenging.

Of those households headed by immigrants, 34 percent speak little to no English. This language barrier is likely one factor contributing to the exploitation and unfair treatment of some immigrant workers. More than 500 workers who were or are employed at California Cartage in the Port of Los Angeles have filed for class-action status in their pursuit of justice in recovering millions of dollars in unpaid wages.

The company, which relies almost exclusively on contract and temporary workers hired through staffing agencies, is accused of failing to pay workers the minimum living wage of $11.03 or $12 as required under L.A. city laws. The company allegedly only paid workers $9 per hour and, if there wasn’t enough work, routinely sent workers home without pay.

The expected class-action lawsuit against California Cartage is just one example of how some U.S. employers attempt to take advantage of workers. Often, cases involving wage and hour complaints related to unpaid overtime and minimum wages involve plaintiffs who can least afford to lose out on hard-earned income. In the Los Angeles area, individuals targeted by unscrupulous employers are often immigrants.

Not only is it unfair to shortchange workers for hours worked, but it is also illegal. Individuals who believe they have or are the victim of wage theft would be wise to contact an attorney who handles employment law matters.

Source: L.A. Times, “Warehouse workers sue for unpaid wages at Port of L.A.,” Chris Kirkham, Dec. 18, 2014