LAM Secures Landmark Class Action Settlement on Behalf of Janitors Who Cleaned California Ross Stores

Legal Aid of Marin settles Vasquez, et al. v. USM, Inc., et al.
LAM Staff Attorney Joanna Shalleck-Klein, pictured at left with Staff Attorney Ann Munene and Supervising Legal Assistant Sandra Esquivias of LAM's employment team, played a key role in securing relief for the underpaid janitors

In a landmark victory for janitors, Legal Aid of Marin, with co-counsel, have won a settlement of $1 million for a class of janitors who performed daily maintenance cleaning in Ross Stores in California. Notice of the class action settlement in Vasquez et al. v. USM, Inc., et al. (N.D. Cal. Case No. CV-13-05449-JD) was provided to the janitor class members throughout California this week.

Plaintiffs in this action allege that retail giant Ross Stores, Inc. (“Ross”) and leading janitorial contractor USM, Inc. (“USM”) violated California Labor Code section 2810 by underfunding contracts for janitorial services, resulting in systemic wage theft from the janitors who cleaned Ross Dress for Less and dd’s DISCOUNTS stores in California. Ross, which operates approximately three hundred “off-price” retail stores in California, contracts with USM for janitorial services. In turn, USM further subcontractors with janitorial service providers, which then hire the workers and assign them to Ross stores.

The California Legislature passed Labor Code section 2810 in 2003 to address the substandard wages and working condition endemic in the underground economy, where subcontracting is prevalent. Any entity that contracts for janitorial services is liable under this law if it knows or should know that it has failed to provide sufficient funds to allow the contractor to comply with all local, state, and federal laws or regulations governing the services provided.

Represented by the firms of Legal Aid of Marin, Chavez & Gertler, Goldstein Borgen Dardarian & Ho, and the Stanford Community Law Clinic, Plaintiffs filed their proposed class action on September 5, 2013. Plaintiffs allege that Ross and USM knew or should have known that their janitorial contracts did not include sufficient funds to allow the service providers at the bottom of the subcontracting chain to comply with all governing labor laws. Plaintiffs further allege that, as a result of the unfunded agreements, the workers were not paid minimum wage.

View Complaint

On January 27, 2014, the Court denied Defendant Ross’ motion to dismiss the case against it, concluding that Plaintiffs’ complaint contained sufficient factual allegations that Ross knew or should have known that the janitorial contracts it entered into with USM were insufficient to pay the janitors all the wages they were owed for cleaning Ross stores.

View Order Denying Motion To Dismiss

Plaintiffs moved for class certification on October 24, 2014.

View Plaintiffs’ Motion for Class Certification

On February 10, 2015, the parties reached a settlement, which provides a settlement fund of $1 million for janitors who performed daily maintenance at California Ross stores from September 5, 2009 until February 10, 2015, along with meaningful prospective relief designed to ensure that current and future janitors at California Ross stores are paid minimum wage for daily maintenance. Plaintiffs’ Counsel will seek a separate award for attorney’s fees and expenses.

This is the largest settlement to date for alleged violations of Labor Code section 2810 and an important victory for janitors.

Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California preliminarily approved the settlement on April 13, 2015.

View Order Preliminarily Approving Settlement

All persons who have provided Daily Maintenance Service at a Ross store in California in connection with the performance of a contract or agreement between USM and Ross for the provision of janitorial services from September 5, 2009 until February 10, 2015 are entitled to share in the settlement fund. Claim forms are due by September 15, 2015.

To submit a claim, or for more information about the settlement, the claims process, opting-out and objecting, visit: http://www.usmjanitorsettlement.com Or call: 1-855-447-2248.

Press coverage and press release materials:

San Francisco Chronicle May 27, 2015: “Janitors at Ross to share $1 million settlement.”

Law360.com January 28, 2014: “Ross Stores Can’t Escape Wage Class Action.”

LawyersAndSettlements.com October 14, 2014: “Janitors Allege Ross Dress for Less Equates Work for Less.”

Contra Costa Times/Oakland Tribune, September 6, 2013: “Janitors sue Pleasanton-based Ross Dress for Less.”

Download September 2013 Complaint Press Release

Download May 2015 Settlement Press Release

For media inquiries, contact: Delfin Vigil, LAM Director of Communications and Development at dvigil@legalaidmarin.org; 415 492-0230, Ext. 316.

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