Workers Win Suit Against Wal-Mart over Missed Breaks

Workers Win Suit Against Wal-Mart over Missed Breaks

A Pennsylvania jury found that Wal-Mart violated state labor laws by demanding hourly workers to work during their lunch breaks, rest periods, and after their shift was over.

The jury sided with former Wal-Mart employees, Dolores Hummel, and Michelle Braun, who sued on behalf of almost 187,000 past and current Pennsylvania Wal-Mart employees. The workers’ lawyers seek $162 million.

The workers’ employees allege that Wal-Mart made workers work through over 33 million rest breaks between 1998 and 2001 to reduce labor costs and improve productivity. At least 70 similar suits have been filed against Wal-Mart.

“Today’s decision is another harsh indictment of Wal-Mart’s pattern of disrespect for its workers and disregard for state law,” said Andrew Grossman, who is the executive director of the labor-advocacy group known as Wal-Mart Watch. “They’re exploiting their workers and passing it off as efficiency.”

During the trial, filed in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, former employees testified that they were pressured by Wal-Mart managers to skip their rest breaks, and cut their meal breaks short. Two cashiers testified that after their shifts ended, they were locked in the store and forced to restock merchandise before they were allowed to leave.

The workers’ lawyers said that that the missed breaks were largely due to Wal-Mart’s staffing system, which allotted staff according to sales, which led to employee shortages in some stores that made it impossible for some workers to take breaks.

Wal-Mart will have to pay workers up to $97.2 million in compensatory damages, and $65 million in liquidated damages, said one of the workers’ attorneys, Michael Donovan.

This is the second time Wal-Mart has lost a class action lawsuit over wages this year alone. Last December, a jury awarded Wal-Mart workers $172.3 million in a lawsuit over missed lunch breaks. The judge in that case ordered Wal-Mart to obey California break laws.

Also, in 2002, an Oregon jury found that Wal-Mart violated laws in forcing employees to work unpaid overtime. The judge ordered walmart to pay 80 workers $180,000.

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