First of Many Wal-Mart Suits Goes to Trial

September 20, 2005 ( - The first of about 40 cases nationwide against Wal-Mart, alleging workplace violations, has gone to trial.

The Associated Press reports that attorneys for the plaintiffs in the class action suit that alleges the company denied workers lunch breaks, say the retail giant owes the former employees $66 million plus interest.

The lawsuit covers former and current employees in California from 2001 to 2005, according to the AP. A California law says employees who work at least six hours must be given a 30 minute, unpaid meal break, or be paid for an extra hour of work. In court documents, Wal-Mart says workers did not request their penalty pay on a timely basis, it did pay some workers their penalty pay, and most workers in 2003 agreed to waive their meal periods, the AP reports.

Since the case was filed in 2001, Wal-Mart provided a company audit from 2000 which the plaintiffs’ attorneys say shows the company knew it was denying the meal breaks. One company document calls the results of the audit “a chronic problem,” according to the AP. Documents provided to the jury show thousands of instances where meal breaks were denied employees.

A lawyer representing 50,000 Washington state workers in a similar suit against Wal-Mart (See Washington Wal-Marters Sue For Overtime ) was in the gallery, the AP said.

Wal-Mart is currently appealing the class-action status of a gender discrimination suit that represents around 1.6 current and former female employees and is estimated will cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars (See Wal-Mart Says Case Is Too Big To Defend ).

Union Network International recently called for a stock protest of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. due to claims of workplace violations and anti-union tactics (See Labor Leaders Call for Wal-Mart Stock Sale ).

Most recently, a case was filed in Los Angeles by 15 foreign workers alleging sweatshop conditions, including beatings in some cases, in toy and clothing factories of Wal-Mart in other countries (See Foreign Workers Sue Wal-Mart for Sweatshop Conditions ).