The Super appeals to a fine for not ‘protecting its employees’
With shelves full of groceries and products to make the best Latin dishes at the end and beginning of the year, El Super supermarkets are overwhelmed and are even requesting additional staff.
But at the same time, the supermarket faces a million-dollar fine by the California Labor Commissioner’s Office for failing to provide supplemental paid sick leave or other benefits to 240 workers at 38 locations affected by covid-19.
The workers complained to the Office of the Labor Commissioner about the lack of knowledge that there was a supplementary paid sick leave, in case they were infected by covid-19.
Meanwhile, El Super assures that the accusations are false and after the announcement of the labor commissioner, at the end of October, filed an appeal and has not paid any fine so far.
“We are looking forward to our proverbial day in court. The fines we received were all part of an investigation by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement,” said Eric W. Rose, a spokesman for El Super.
In the middle of the year, the workers who are members of the International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents grocery store workers, assured that El Super forced them to work with symptoms of covid, in addition, they did not they were allowed to stay away until they presented the results of their tests.
Others were denied time off to self-isolate when members of their household had tested positive for covid-19, others were never paid for their time off because of being infected.
The Labor Commissioner’s Office opened an investigation on September 9, 2020 and found that some workers were being asked to apply for unemployment or disability, while in quarantine or isolation, at the same time that others waited months to receive their payment.
This was the second time that the Labor Commissioner’s Office fined the supermarket. This time, the amount is $1,164,500. The penalties include $369,527 in wages, damages and interest for failing to provide 2020 supplemental paid sick leave for food industry workers.
Another penalty was $42,473 in wages, damages and interest for failing to provide leave under the COVID-19 Act of 2021, supplemental paid sick leave for employers with 26 or more employees.
In addition, $752,500 was assessed for non-payment or late payment of supplemental paid sick leave.
El Super was fined $447,876 in July for similar violations affecting 95 workers at three stores.
For and against
Daniel Marín works at one of the El Super supermarkets in South Los Angeles. He stated that despite the fines received by the company, the changes have not come.
“Our store supervisor is very rude,” Marin said. “When I see clients without masks, I tell them to put it on or I won’t attend to them, but the supervisor says not to do that and he doesn’t either.”
He said that when he was infected with covid he had to miss work 17 days in December 2020. And despite the fact that he called multiple times to have his sick pay sent to him, it did not arrive until April 2021 when he was already Working again.
“I told them I had expenses to pay but they didn’t care,” he stressed.
Another supermarket employee, who only identified himself as Jose, said he fell ill with the flu at the end of last year; however, his supervisor did not care. At home his sister had symptoms of covid-19 and this worried him.
“At work they only have a device to check the temperature,” explained José, who has worked in one of the El Super supermarkets in Los Angeles County for 10 years.
When he mentioned his suspicions to his supervisor, he was sent back to continue working. Then he went to get tested in his spare time and his suspicions were proven, he was infected with covid-19.
He asserted that it was no surprise to him to learn of the complaints filed against the supermarket because he confronted the injustices against the workers.
“I knew that if we got sick they had to pay us for the two weeks of illness due to covid,” José said. “The union told us.”
José, who eventually received his sick pay, said it feels bad to be in a job where supervisors don’t care about them as people, just as part of a process to bring out productivity.
“They care more about the merchandise than the quality of work,” José said.
He added that he would like to see changes in his work, especially when it comes to the health of employees in the midst of a pandemic.
“If someone gets sick from covid, they should be sent home and let them go take the exam,” José explained. “Because when I told him that if I could go take the covid test at my lunch or on my break, the supervisor always pretended to be busy or that he was talking to someone.”
For his part, another employee of El Super de Los Angeles said that he has no problem with the store; he believes that the whole problem of the fines started with a co-worker who got infected and thus came to work without notifying the supervisor.
“I don’t know his needs, but maybe he couldn’t stop working because he didn’t miss the day, but that’s where it all started,” said the worker who preferred not to give his name.
He added that fortunately, El Super where he works does not have a union, which prevents them from carrying out protest movements which, in his opinion, are sometimes not worth it.
“You pay your monthly salary to the unions to represent you, but they only agree to a contract of an increase of 10 cents per year. Companies have even offered me directly 50 cents or even $1 without contracts,” he assured.
Kathy Finn, secretary and treasurer of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 770 union, which represents employees of four El Super supermarkets, said they are happy to know that the company is obliged to comply with the law because they have been hearing complaints of workers per month.
“Our members since the beginning of this pandemic have been [trabajando] on the front lines, being exposed every day and more than anyone else to the general public,” said Finn. “They do not know if the clients arrive infected with covid-19. So it’s been very scary and very traumatic for them. [los trabajadores]”.
Finn explained that the supplemental paid sick leave was very helpful, but they heard from their members that they were often not paid the money they were entitled to by the company.
“So we’re very pleased that the labor commissioner came forward and investigated and came out with these tickets. Hopefully our members will now be compensated for the time they missed from work,” Finn said.
The 2021 supplemental paid sick leave law, which took effect March 29 and is retroactive to January 1, 2021, requires California workers to receive up to two weeks of sick leave if they are affected by covid-19. 19.
The law expired on September 30, 2021.
appealing the decision
Rose, the spokesperson for El Super, indicated that the company has always been committed to complying with labor laws. He assured that the reputation and relationships with employees have been developed over more than two decades.
“The Labor Commissioner is unaware that we have paid more than $1.6 billion in COVID-19 leave to our valued employees.”
He assured that for more than a year, El Super has tried to work with the Labor Commissioner to provide proof of full compliance regarding supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL).
“Our efforts have been ignored and the latest quotes border on frivolity. It is unfortunate that despite our good faith efforts to resolve these misunderstandings,” Rose said. “The Labor Commissioner acted without completing his investigation. We are confident that when all the facts are known, we will prevail in court.”