Two women on Tuesday filed a class action lawsuit against an Elmhurst-based staffing agency and the company they were assigned to, alleging their wages were lowered without notice and they were not paid overtime.
The women worked for Superior Staffing, a company with offices in Chicago that assigns employees temporary positions in manufacturing jobs, and were assigned to work at Fareva Morton Grove, a cosmetics manufacturing company.
Patricia Martinez of Bridgeport and Ana Diaz Rivas of Prospect Heights said their wages were reduced in November 2020, according to the lawsuit.
“I made $13.50 before they lowered my pay to $12. That $1.50 is money that I need for gas,” Martinez said at a news conference Tuesday.
She tried complaining but was rebuffed by the cosmetics company.
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“They told me I had no right to complain because I don’t work for the company, that I’m a temporary worker, even though I worked there for over a year and a half.”
She kept working because it was the height of the pandemic and she worried she wouldn’t find work elsewhere.
“I had to work like a robot to work at the pace that they wanted,” she said.
Superior Staffing and Fareva did not respond to requests for comment.
The women’s lawsuit, which could cover as many as 100 people, also alleges that over the span of their employment at the company they were assigned work on multiple occasions but Fareva turned them away and Superior did not pay them for their time. Under the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act, they should have been paid for four hours of work, according to the lawsuit.
A mother of a 3-year-old boy with Down syndrome, Diaz Rivas had to pay a nanny when she went to work. On days when she was turned away, she still had to pay the nanny.
“I told them they needed to let me know beforehand if they didn’t need me to come in and they ignored me. Paying the babysitter isn’t an expense that I can afford if they don’t let me work.”
Raise the Floor Alliance, a coalition of workers’ rights groups, is representing the plaintiffs in the case. Staff attorney Mark Birhanu said Martinez and Diaz Rivas left the company in June 2021.
“These are very vulnerable workers. Imagine you’re making minimum wage and standing up to your employer. It takes a lot. So Patricia Martinez and Ana Diaz Rivas are standing up on behalf of the other workers,” Birhanu said.
Birhanu said these kinds of violations of the rights of temporary workers are common and third-party companies like Fareva often aren’t held liable. He said this suit was filed under the Labor Services Act with the intent of holding Fareva “jointly liable.”
What’s at stake in the end, he said, is whether these protections for workers have any teeth.
Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.