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Lawsuit accuses Costco of 'false imprisonment' of workers

May 15, 2009 |  3:28 pm

A class-action lawsuit was filed today against Costco Wholesale Corp. alleging that the discount chain mistreats its employees.

The suit, filed in San Diego County Superior Court, seeks at least $50 million from the company for allegedly breaking California labor law by routinely keeping employees from going home each night for 15 minutes until managers remove jewelry from cases and check registers. The policy, the suit says, amounts to false imprisonment.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Mary Pytelewski, a clerk at the Costco warehouse in San Marcos in northern San Diego County. Employees are kept from leaving even though they are not being paid, the suit alleges.

"Costco is building its business and its competitive advantage at my expense and at the expense of all of its other hourly workers," Pytelewski said in a statement.

The suit also alleges that Costco retaliated against Pytelewski with a negative job evaluation when she complained. The company posted a supervisor as a guard at her cash register, said Steven L. Wittels of the firm Sanford Wittels & Heisler, which filed the lawsuit.

The suit asks for damages and for the court to order Costco to end the policy. A Costco spokesman did not return messages seeking comment.

--Tony Perry