Wal-Mart Takes $172 Mil Hit In Lunch Break Case
By George Anderson
Allegations by retail workers that they’ve had breaks cut short or denied altogether by managers when stores are understaffed and/or simply very busy may be as old as retailing itself. Of course, as most retailers understand, what once was an accepted practice doesn’t fly anymore – especially when a jury is involved.
Yesterday, a jury in California decided Wal-Mart was guilty of violating a 2001 state law requiring employers to give a 30-mimute, unpaid lunch break to all employees who work a shift of six hours or more.
The jury awarded $172 million ($57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages) to 116,000 current and former workers who joined in the suit.
Wal-Mart said it would appeal the case. The company argues that California state law does not allow for punitive damages to be assessed. “The meal-period premiums in question are penalties, rather than wages,” it said in the statement. “In short, California law prohibits penalties on top of penalties.”
While acknowledging that some mistakes were made when the California law first went into effect, Wal-Mart maintains it is in 100 percent compliance with it today.
Wal-Mart settled a similar suit in Colorado for $50 million.
Moderator’s Comment: How often do incidents occur today where retail workers are denied breaks or asked to work off the clock, compared to the past?
Why do allegations persist that this practice continues when labor laws are very clear in this regard? –
George Anderson – Moderator
- Wal-Mart to appeal $172 million awarded
over lunch break law – The Associated Press/San Jose Mercury News