The women behind a class action lawsuit alleging violations against Illinois state law protecting temporary workers spoke during a press conference in Little Village Aug. 23, 2022. Credit: Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — Two Chicago area women are suing a staffing agency and one of its clients, saying they weren’t paid properly for overtime work and had their wages reduced without notice, among other issues.

Patricia Martinez and Ana Diaz Rivas are suing Superior Staffing — which places workers in temporary manufacturing positions — and Fareva, a Morton Grove-based company where they were contracted to work through Superior Staffing, the two said at a Tuesday news conference in Little Village.

Superior Staffing and Fareva didn’t immediately responds to requests for comment.

Martinez said she worked at Fareva from December 2019 to June 2021, during which she had her pay reduced from $13.50 to $12 without proper notice under the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Service Act, according to the lawsuit. Diaz Rivas, who worked at Fareva from August 2020 to June 2021, saw her pay reduced from $13 to $12, according to the lawsuit.

By lowering the women’s wages without proper notice, “Superior Staffing denied them certain information related to their employment which the Illinois Legislature has deemed critical to protecting the rights of day or temporary laborers,” according to the lawsuit.

Ana Diaz Rivas and Patricia Martinez after a press conference in Little Village Aug. 23, 2022. Credit: Madison Savedra/Block Club Chicago

Martinez, speaking at the news conference, said the reduction in her wages meant a loss of money for things like gas so she could get to and from work.

“I told them I wouldn’t be able to afford to get to work, and they told me I had no right to complain,” said Martinez, of Bridgeport. “They told me to accept this or leave.”

During Martinez’s time at Fareva, she spoke up about a lack of breaks during shifts and the inability to switch work roles to something less intense, but she was continuously ignored, she said.

Dias Rivas, of suburban Prospect Heights, said she showed up to a regularly scheduled shift just to be told that she wasn’t needed on a number of occasions. She said she was sent home without pay for the day, violating an Illinois law protecting temporary workers, according to the lawsuit.

“It didn’t matter to them that I still had to pay my babysitter for an entire day,” Diaz Rivas said. “I told them they needed to let me know beforehand if I didn’t need to come in, and they ignored me.”

After the women left Superior Staffing and Fareva, Martinez and Diaz Rivas said they sought help from the Little Village-based organization Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, which connected them with legal counsel through Raise the Floor Alliance.

Mark Birhanu, a staff attorney from Raise the Floor, said temporary workers are some of the most vulnerable to exploitation and labor violations like the ones alleged in Martinez and Diaz Rivas’ lawsuit, largely because of how unregulated the temporary staffing economy is.

“We’re doing this so that other workers do not suffer what [Diaz Rivas and Martinez] suffered through,” Birhanu said. “Acknowledging stories like those heard from [them] are exactly why this law exists.”

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