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Walmart Defeats Immigrant Janitors' False Imprisonment Appeal

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By Andrew Lu on August 15, 2012 6:50 AM

Walmart wins a nine-year-old lawsuit brought by a class of janitors that claimed that the retailer engaged in immigration violations, unfair labor practices, and even falsely imprisoned its workers.

The janitors worked for a variety of contractors that provided janitorial services to Walmart. They accuse Walmart of trying to clean its stores "on the cheap" by hiring illegal immigrants that would be more willing to put up with unfair working conditions and lower pay, reports Reuters. In addition, to keep federal authorities from finding the immigrants, the janitors claim that they were locked up overnight in Walmart stores.

A panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld rulings by a lower court and found that the janitors could not sue as a class. They also rejected the illegal work condition and false imprisonment claims.

The court held that the proposed class of janitors could not be certified as a class noting that they worked in 180 different stores in 33 states and for 70 different contractors, reports Reuters. Generally, to bring a class action, the plaintiffs have to be similar enough to bring a common claim. The plaintiffs do not have to work in the same store, but the differences in their work conditions cannot be too great.

Regarding the immigration claims against Walmart, the court found that there was no evidence that Walmart conspired to harbor illegal immigrants or even encouraged illegal immigration.

Finally, the court summarily rejected the false imprisonment claim, finding that Walmart stores had unobstructed emergency exits.

The court dealt a severe blow to the janitors claim against Walmart. However, this is not necessarily the end of the case. While the court dismissed the class, individual janitors may still be able to bring individual claims against Walmart for immigration violations or other unfair labor conditions based on their specific situation.

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