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O’Hare immigrant workers file back-Wages suit

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

A group of temporary ground workers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport has filed an unpaid wages lawsuit against eight companies, including its employment agency, Ideal Staffing Solutions of Bensenville.

The defendants also include carriers United Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Alitalia, plus ground-handling companies Swissport and Air Menzies.

The lawsuit alleges the companies used Ideal Staffing Solutions as a front for “illegal schemes” such as paying below minimum wage and splitting weekly compensation into multiple pay periods to avoid paying overtime. The lawsuit, filed in Cook County, seeks compensation for thousands of hours of allegedly unpaid work dating back to 2003.

The 10 plaintiffs who brought the suit are immigrant workers who performed such jobs as loading cargo and in-flight meals onto planes.

Their attorney, Jed Untereker of Chicago’s Working Hands Legal Clinic, expects more plaintiffs to join the suit. “We believe there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of workers in a similar plight,” he said.

Several of the plaintiffs were arrested in an immigration raid at O’Hare in November 2007. Also arrested were two Ideal Staffing employees, who were charged with harboring illegal immigrants for gain.

An investigation revealed that some of the workers may not have been paid for several weeks. 

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