ALBERTSON'S SUED OVER DELAYED FINAL WAGES

LOS ANGELES -- Ten former employees of Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's have filed suit in Superior Court here charging the company with failing to pay final wages and vacation pay on a timely basis, as required under California labor law.According to the complaint, California law requires that employees who are terminated or laid off or who quit or retire must receive a final paycheck on or before

LOS ANGELES -- Ten former employees of Boise, Idaho-based Albertson's have filed suit in Superior Court here charging the company with failing to pay final wages and vacation pay on a timely basis, as required under California labor law.

According to the complaint, California law requires that employees who are terminated or laid off or who quit or retire must receive a final paycheck on or before their last day, while employees who leave their jobs with less than 72 hours' notice must be paid within 72 hours after their employment ends.

The suit was filed on behalf of all former California employees of Albertson's, the former Lucky Stores and Sav-on drug stores who worked for any of those companies between September 1996 and the present. Lucky and Sav-on were acquired by Albertson's in mid-1999 as part of its buyout of American Stores Co.

The 10 employees who filed the lawsuit -- all former members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 in Buena Park, Calif. -- claim they were paid anywhere from 96 hours to a month after their last day.

Four of the plaintiffs also contend they have not been paid for vested vacation time.

The suit seeks one day's pay for every day final wages were late, up to a maximum of 30 days' pay, as well as unpaid vacation wages, plus injunctive relief, interest, attorney fees and court costs.

According to Judie Decker, an Albertson's spokeswoman, "Albertson's does not believe the allegations have any merit and intends to vigorously defend itself.

"Albertson's pays all final wages, including vacation pay, within three days of an associate's voluntary quit. If any Albertson's associate is discharged, he or she is paid on the last day of work. This complies with California law, and we believe it is fair to former associates."

Joseph Paller, a partner in the firm of Gilbert & Sackman, Los Angeles, who represents the plaintiffs, said the suit was filed on behalf of all California employees of Albertson's, whether union or non-union.

Asked whether other UFCW locals have expressed an interest in pursuing similar actions, Paller told SN, "Because the suit was filed on behalf of all former California employees of Albertson's, members of any local or non-union members from anywhere in the state can become part of the class."

Paller said he was unable to estimate the size of the potential class; however, he noted that investigations indicate that 600 members of Local 324 left Albertson's employ for various reasons during the first seven months of 2000.

If the plaintiffs are successful in getting the action certified as a class action, the court will authorize notifications of potential class members, Paller said. However, he was unsure how long it might be until the court decides whether to certify the case.

He also said the lawsuit has received some initial financial backing from Local 324 "to show its support." The balance of costs is being handled on a contingency basis, he added.

According to the complaint, five of the plaintiffs who filed the suit were terminated, three quit, one retired and one was laid off between August 1999 and April 2000 from jobs at Albertson's, Lucky Stores or Sav-on.

Bob Bleiweiss, a spokesman for Local 324, said the case began when some members asked the local to help them recover unpaid vacation pay.