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Wage theft, other labor abuses alleged in 7-Eleven case

A wide range of labor abuses are being alleged against several 7-Eleven franchise owners this week after federal authorities conducted a raid on stores and homes. In what was described as a "modern-day plantation" system, the franchise owners allegedly coerced undocumented immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines to work in their stores for far less than minimum wage for up to 100 hours each week before taking them back to "company owned" housing. 

The employers used fraudulent social security numbers to have the employees paid by the national headquarters and then forced the employees to cash the checks and hand in a majority of the earnings. The investigation involves eight states including Pennslyvania. 

Nine people are implicated in the criminal acts. It is one of the biggest criminal cases that the Department of Justice has pursued that deals with employment of immigrants. 

In addition to the bad treatment and the housing conditions for the workers, these individuals were subjected to wage theft and unpaid overtime. According to federal labor laws, workers in certain categories of jobs are entitled to overtime for any hours that they work over 40. If they are not paid but made to work additional hours then they are experiencing wage theft. 

This case is more complex because it involves undocumented immigrants, so there may be some additional factors in determining if the employees can recover financially and if so, how much. Typically employees are entitled to back pay to compensate them for the time that they worked without payment.

Source: ABA Journal, "Feds raid 7-Eleven stores at 54 sites, allege $180M 'plantation system' immigrant fraud," Martha Neil, June 18, 2013.