COLLECTIVE ACTION SUIT AGAINST LAKELAND DRUM - Kristen Friend-Weaver05/28/03
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund announced its intentions today to file a collective action labor suit against the local industrial drum recycling facility, Lakeland Drum. MALDEF, a national Latino advocacy group, alleges that Lakeland Drum violated the rights of its predominantly Latino workforce by paying unfair wages and refusing to pay overtime wages even though employees regularly worked overtime hours. WMNFâ€™s Kristen Friend-Weaver attended the press conference this morning and files this report.
The suit is initially being filed on behalf of a single plaintiff who was referred to by her lawyers only as Mrs. Garcia. Garcia and MALDEF allege that while she was employed at Lakeland drum she was regularly required to work full days at the plant and then nights as a housekeeper for her employers and their relatives. They allege also that she was at times not paid for this work, and they believe that she should not have been required to work outside the plant as a term of her employment. Garcia says that when she complained to her employees about the improper pay, she was fired in retaliation. Tisha Tallman, the Southeast Regional Council for MALDEF, explains how this is unfair to both Garcia and other Latinosâ€¦
The suit is being filed under a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that allows collective action against an employer, and it is still in its initial phase. After it is received by the court, the court will then issue notices to others who may be affected by the case, and those individuals can then decide whether they wish to participate in the action. Lawyers for MALDEF estimate that Lakeland Drum employs between 40 and 50 people, predominantly Latinos, and they expect many of them to joint the suit. Employment attorney Peter Helwig says that Garcia and others in her situation expect only to be fairly compensated for hard workâ€¦
Attorney Diana Sen Connerty, who is also representing Garcia in this case, agrees, emphasizing that fair compensation is a fundamental rightâ€¦
Currently, the Department of Labor is not involved in the action against Lakeland Drum, and attorneys for MALDEF say that it will most likely stay out of the case. They believe that direct action through the courts will be the fastest and most effective means to prove to Lakeland Drum that MALDEF will not tolerate unfair labor practices. When pushed to explain why they chose to bypass the Department of Labor, Peter Helwig explained that it would be an unnecessary stepâ€¦
Attorney Adria Lynn Silva stressed that she feels it is important for MALDEF to pursue cases such as these because too many employers feel that they can treat Latino employees unfairlyâ€¦
Garcia and MALDEF are currently seeking compensation for the hours and overtime hours for which she was not paid and back pay for the time she has missed since she was fired. They may still choose to seek punitive damages under an anti-conspiracy law, but they have not yet determined whether such damages are applicable in this situation.
We contacted Lakeland Drum for a statement, but they refused to comment at this time.
For WMNF news, Iâ€™m Kristen Friend-Weaver.