NEWARK, N.J. - Workers recently arrested in federal raids filed a racketeering lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of conspiring with contractors in a criminal enterprise that violated the civil rights and wage protections of immigrants who cleaned its stores.
The federal court lawsuit seeks class-action status for perhaps thousands of immigrants, legal and illegal, hired by the contractors to clean the stores of the world’s largest retailer, said a lawyer for the plaintiffs, James Linsey.
The scheme by Wal-Mart and the contractors violated the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as RICO, by systematically depriving the workers of labor law protections over at least the last three years, according to the lawsuit.
‘‘It’s all designed to exploit the weakest, most vulnerable people in the world,’’ Linsey said Tuesday, a day after the lawsuit was filed.
He said the action replaces a lawsuit filed in state Superior Court last week by the same workers that sought more than $200,000 in back pay.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages and an injunction barring Wal-Mart from further violations.
The nine named plaintiffs, all from Mexico, were among 250 people arrested Oct. 23 by federal immigration agents during raids at 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states.
They have been released to await deportation proceedings, Linsey said.
Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said the claims have no merit and the company will seek to have the lawsuit dismissed.
‘‘The Wal-Mart culture is based on respect for other people, and we would never condone treating anyone poorly, legal or otherwise. We want to get to the bottom of this and are as eager as anyone to see whatever evidence federal officials might have,’’ Williams said.