Jury: Wal-Mart Workers Deserve Back Pay

February 18, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Portland, Oregon federal court jury, pondering how much retail giant Wal-Mart stores owed employees with unpaid overtime hours has decided that 83 workers should get back pay.

The jury’s pronouncement came after jurors assessed each worker’s case individually and rejected money for 25 employees in the second phase of a trial highlighting working conditions at the nation’s largest private employer, according to the Associated Press. Of more than 15,000 employees solicited to take part in the suit, only 425 agreed and 108 went to a jury to decide an award.

The move awarding back pay to 83 plaintiffs also comes more than a year after a Portland federal jury became the first in the nation to rule that Wal-Mart forced workers at 18 Oregon stores work unpaid overtime from 1994 to 1999. About three dozen similar suits against the retailer are pending around the country.

In the latest case, exact compensation for each worker is yet to be hammered out but payments are expected to be relatively modest, ranging from a few hundred dollars to several thousand per worker, based on roughly 30 to 60 minutes of overtime per week, according to the news report.

US District Court Judge Garr King asked the attorneys to present the court with an approximate dollar value for the overtime hours, and said the court would later decide how much Wal-Mart would pay.

Attorneys for the former and current employees had argued that their clients were sometimes locked inside stores until other workers completed their jobs, and then told to pitch in off the clock, or asked to work through meal breaks.

Lawyers for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, though, had questioned the credibility of the former employees, and whether they exaggerated the number of hours they worked. Wal-Mart attorneys also said managers were trying to encourage teamwork.

Wal-Mart has about 1.2 million employees and nearly 3,500 stores in the United States.