Court Refuses Class-Action Status in Wal-Mart Overtime Case

November 29, 2004 ( - A Florida appeals court has refused to reinstate class-action status for a lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart that alleges that the retail giant forced employees to work without pay during breaks and after hours.

>The First District Court of Appeal left open the possibility of change if the list of proposed participants, which now stands at 230,000, was whittled down to only include workers who were actually affected by the alleged practice.

>At the moment, the suit seeks to represent workers across Florida who were supposedly forced to work during their breaks and after their expected work hours for no pay. Writing for the court, District Judge Ricky Polston said that the ruling could be altered if the participant list was shortened to include only those affected by the practice. The suit currently attempts to encompass all hourly workers who were employed on or after July 13, 1997.

>The decision to deny class-action status was congruent with a lower court’s decision, but was based on different reasoning. Florida Circuit Judge Glenn Hess had previously denied class-action status based on the reasoning that the number of participants in the suit would overrun the justice system, with thousands of trials being necessary to decide damages if the claim did succeed. Polston disagreed, stating that the “individualized nature of their damages claims should not bar certification of the class.” However, the appeals court still refused to instate class-action status, citing the excessively broad nature of the proposed class.

>Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, has seen its fair share of lawsuits over the past few years relating to both overtime and discrimination claims. Most recently, a federal judge in San Franciscogave the green light to bring a class-action suit against the company regarding discrimination claims (See  Court Refuses Class-Action Status in Overtime Case against Wal-Mart ). Requests to file similar lawsuits in other states have been met with mixed success, with class-action status being granted in Minnesota and Indiana, according to Tallahassee Democrat. Class-action status has failed to garner support in California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Texas, according to the paper. In an Oregoncase, a court ruled to award overtime back pay to 83 plaintiffs (See Jury: Wal-Mart Workers Deserve Back Pay ).

>The ruling is available at