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Zavala v. Wal Mart Stores Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
691 F.3d 527 (2012)


Facts

A group of undocumented immigrants, including Victor Zavala (plaintiffs), worked for contractors hired by Wal Mart Stores Incorporated (Wal-Mart) (defendant) to provide cleaning services. The cleaning crews worked in Wal-Mart stores at night and on the weekends when the stores were otherwise closed. During those times, the stores’ exits were locked pursuant to Wal-Mart’s store policy. Crewmembers could ask managers to open the doors, but managers were not always available. Zavala and the other crewmembers sued Wal-Mart in federal district court. One of their claims sought damages for false imprisonment based on Wal-Mart’s alleged practice of locking stores with the cleaning crews inside and not having managers available to open the doors. A crewmember alleged that on one occasion, he wanted to leave the store but could not because his manager would not let him. Another crewmember alleged that she was sick during her shift and wanted to leave, but no managers were available to let her out. Wal-Mart countered with declarations from store managers who swore that managers were available to unlock doors “when necessary” and that the stores had properly marked and operational emergency exits. Wal-Mart also argued that the crewmembers had consented to the alleged “imprisonment” by continuing to come to work even though they knew Wal-Mart’s policy of locking the stores’ doors. The crewmembers argued that they were never told about the emergency exits, and that if even if they could have used the exits, they did not want to trigger an alarm or risk losing their jobs. The district court granted summary judgment for Wal-Mart on the false-imprisonment claim. The crewmembers appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Smith, J.)

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