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Wal-Mart loses appeal from wage-and-hour violations lawsuit

In the past few months, we have written about several lawsuits against Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer which employs over 93,000 workers in Florida alone. Most of these recent lawsuits have involved allegations of either discrimination or harassment.

Wal-Mart is again in the news. The retail giant recently lost an appeal of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit regarding violations of wage and hour laws.

The lawsuit was originally filed by two former employees on behalf of 187,000 Wal-Mart employees in Pennsylvania. The two women presented evidence from approximately 46 million shifts which showed that employees were routinely denied meal and rest breaks.

A 2006 jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded $187.6 million in damages and compensation. Wal-Mart appealed the decision, but a three-judge panel recently upheld the original verdict, as well as most of the jury award.

The appeals court said: "The record reflects testimony and documentary evidence suggesting that because of pressure from the home office to reduce labor costs and the availability of significant bonuses for managers based on store profitability, Wal-Mart's scheduling program created chronic understaffing, leading to widespread rest-break violations."

Wal-Mart was successful in slightly lowering the jury award. When the court first calculated a $45.6 million award for legal fees, some factors were accidentally double-counted. Therefore, those costs will be recalculated.

As the country's largest retailer and one of its leading employers, it is not surprising that Wal-Mart faces regular lawsuits. Like other corporate lawsuits, some claims are legitimate while others have no merit.

However, plaintiffs in this case were able to provide overwhelming documented evidence to prove that Wal-Mart violated wage and hour laws. As such, the verdict rightly withstood an appeal and justice was served.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "Wal-Mart loses $187.6 million worker rest appeal," Jonathan Stempel and Jessica Wohl, 13 June 2011

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