Wal-Mart’s $2 Billion Tab To Workers

In General Interest by Jonathan Tasini0 Comments

   My first reaction looking at the grim news all around–say, that American is going to cut 7,000 jobs by the end of the year–was to write about the litany of awful crap coming down on workers around the country. But, it being the day before Independence Day (and, as a result, yours truly gets one less day of my two-week grand jury term–don’t get me started on that experience…it is an abusive system to defendants…ooopppsss, there I go), I thought: more good news out of the world of the Beast of Bentonville.

   A couple of days ago, and you may of heard of this already but the aforementioned grand jury has slowed me down, a state judge in Minnesota ruled that Wal-Mart had–get this–broken the law…again. This time to the potential price-tag of $2 BILLION dollars:


The company required hourly employees to work off-the-clock during training and denied full rest or meal breaks in violation of state wage and hour laws, Hastings, Minnesota, District Judge Robert King, Jr. held today following a non-jury trial. King ruled Wal-Mart broke labor laws more than 2 million times and ordered the company to give employees $6.5 million in back-pay.

“Wal-Mart’s failure to compensate plaintiffs was willful,” the judge wrote in his 151-page decision. “Wal-Mart was on notice from numerous sources of the wage and hour violations at issue and failed to correct the problem.”

The lawsuit is one of more than 70 cases, including class actions, or group suits, in which Wal-Mart has been accused of wage-law violations. The retailer lost a $78 million jury verdict in Pennsylvania in 2006 over rest breaks and unpaid work and a $172 million verdict in California in 2005 over meal breaks. Both verdicts have been appealed.

   Speaking for myself, when I lift a cool one this weekend (hopefully, while watching my woeful Yankees play the also woeful Red Sox), I’m going to toast Judge King. Then, we get to wait til October:

King’s decision means Wal-Mart will face a second trial in Minnesota state court, this time before a jury. Minnesota labor law allows a fine of up to $1,000 per violation of wage and hour rules. With 2 million violations, that may total as much as $2 billion. At the Oct. 20 trial, jurors will determine how much each violation is worth, and also consider punitive damages.

   Can’t wait.

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