Two years after a deadly garment factory collapse in Bangladesh, victims and their families are suing a group of retailers who “should have known that the Rana Plaza facility was not safe for human habitation,” according to the lawsuit. Walmart, J.C. Penney, The Children’s Place and the Bangladesh government are accused of negligence and wrongful death in a class-action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
In April 2013, the Rana Plaza, an eight-story garment factory collapsed in Savar, outside the city of Dhaka, killing 1,129 people and injuring more than 2,500, making it the deadliest disaster in the history of the garment industry. A 400-page report issued by the Bangladesh government showed the factory had been constructed after Savar’s mayor wrongly issued building permits. The building itself, which held factories for about 40 retailers, was haphazardly built with substandard materials without regard for the building code, the report stated.
Last year, 14 people, including the mayor of Savar and owners of the building’s garment factories, were charged by local authorities. The new class-action lawsuit claims that Walmart, J.C. Penney and The Children’s Place were aware of the factory’s conditions and did nothing to improve them. Spokespeople for the retailers would not comment on the lawsuit, though they did point out that all three chains are members of the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, formed after the collapse to inspect other factories in the country.
Two plaintiffs are named in the suit: Abdur Rahaman, the representative of Sharifa Belgum, a 30-year-old mother of four who died in the collapse; and Mahamudul Hasan Hridoy, a 25-year-old worker who was injured. The plaintiffs are filing the suit on behalf of all those who were injured or lost relatives in the collapse. Damages are expected to exceed the $5 million threshold required for class-action suits.
According to the lawsuit, workers in the factory, mainly young women, worked at least 13 hours a day, with only two days off a month and were paid between 21 and 24 cents an hour. The day before the building collapsed, cracks were discovered in the foundation, and the building was evacuated, but managers demanded workers return to the building the next day or lose a month’s pay, the suit states.