11/09/03 - Lawsuit filed by nine illegal immigrants arrested in Wal-Mart raid

They're facing deportation after being arrested during raids on Wal-Mart stores. Now, nine illegal immigrants who worked as janitors are suing Wal-Mart for discrimination.

They say they were paid lower wages and offered fewer benefits because they are Mexican. They accuse the nation's largest retailer and its cleaning contractors of failing to pay overtime, withhold taxes or make required workers' compensation contributions.

The lawsuit filed last week in Freehold, New Jersey seeks more than 200-thousand dollars in back pay.

The plaintiffs were among 250 people arrested in a crackdown at 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states last month.

According to the lawsuit, Wal-Mart employed cleaning contractors "with full knowledge" that they paid illegal immigrants less than legal workers.

But a Wal-Mart spokeswoman says the company didn't know about the alleged labor violations or that the contractors used illegal immigrants. She says Wal-Mart has long insisted that its contractors obey the law.

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