03/05/2012 02:08 pm ET

Warehouse Workers Allege Walmart Suppliers Understated Work Hours

Ever wonder how Walmart gets the price of toilet paper so damn low? In part, it could be because the workers who distribute products are paid below minimum wage, according to the allegations of a new lawsuit.

A class-action lawsuit filed against three Los Angeles-area based companies that handle Walmart's goods alleges that the firms pressured supervisors to understate the number of hours employees worked so that they could pay them less, according to MSNBC. Walmart and other retailers aren't named in the suit -- a situation that often occurs because the companies don't directly pay the workers -- but the warehouse practices ultimately help products land on the big box shelves at cheap prices.

The Huffington Post previously reported that the class-action suit alleges workers "spend their workdays performing strenuous, unskilled physical labor in an environment where the temperature often exceeds 90 degrees." Furthermore, bosses "routinely responded with threats of retaliation and actual retaliation, including by sending the inquiring workers home without pay, refusing to give them work the next day ... and imposing other forms of discipline on them."

These types of warehouses are staffed by a large number of workers hired through temporary agencies to do difficult and often unstable work. Over the past decade and a half, Joliet, Illinois and its environs -- a region southwest of Chicago -- has turned into one of the world's largest hubs for dry goods heading to retail stores across the Midwest. It's also become an area with one of the highest concentration of temp workers in the Midwest, indicating the big-box industry's reliance on workers hired by third-party companies to staff warehouses they don't own.

Even when these temporary warehouse workers are paid legitimately, their wages are still $3 lower on average than that of their permanent counterparts, according to Mother Jones. But they make up more than 15 percent of the packers and pickers work in warehouses and often stay classified as temporary for years.

Some warehouses allegedly subject workers to terrible conditions and the employees stick with the companies for fear of being without work in a trying job market. An Allentown, Pennsylvania-based warehouse owned by reportedly had paramedics on standby to treat employees that couldn’t stand the 110-degree heat, according to a September report from the Morning Call. In addition, many of the employees were alleged forced to work 11-hour days during the holidays and maintain productivity levels even during the summer heat.

California warehouse workers have previously been threatened with layoffs for complaining about wage violations and unsafe working conditions.