FEDERAL AND OUT-OF-STATE OCTOBER 1997
TEN MILLION DOLLARS IN PUNITIVE DAMAGES WAS AWARDED FIVE EMPLOYEES OF LEVI STRAUSS & CO. IN EL PASO, TEXAS FOR THE COMPANY HAVING PUT PRESSURE ON THE PLAINTIFFS TO RETURN TO WORK BEFORE THEY WERE FULLY RECOVERED FROM INJURIES. The attorney for the plaintiffs said that this verdict will make employers more careful about doing that sort of thing after this.
The defendant is the maker of the famous Levi jeans. The plaintiffs, mostly seamstresses, claimed they were forced to return to work and then humiliated in a bid to get them to quit. Levi said it will appeal.
Some of the workers claimed, among other charges, that they were blindfolded and paraded around the parking lot, required to stay in an on-sight trailer eight hours a day, do work in violation of their doctors orders, taunted as walking mummies or lazy, warned that they would lose workers compensation and unemployment benefits if they didnt return to work, etc.
Prof. Joseph Little of the University of Florida, an expert on workers compensation, is quoted in U.S.A. Today for Sept. 11, 1997, p. 1B as saying there is a big incentive for companies to prod injured workers back on the job because they get out of the burdens of workers compensation payments.
The trial was the first of several that is expected involving five workers at a time. More than 100 workers at six Levi plants in the El Paso area have sued.