PA Jury Finds Wal-Mart Violated Labor Laws

October 13, 2006 ( - Jurors in a Pennsylvania court determined that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated state labor laws by forcing employees to work during breaks and off the clock.

According to news reports, the minimum in damages Wal-Mart faces when jurors decide an award on Friday is $62 million, while the plaintiffs’ lawyers say it could reach $100 million. The jury found that Wal-Mart acted in bad faith by not protecting workers’ rights to breaks and forcing them to work off the clock; however, it did not agree with the plaintiffs’ claim that Wal-Mart actually denied breaks.

Former Wal-Mart workers testified they were pressured to skip breaks or cut them short by store managers who had been promised bonuses for cutting costs. A lead plaintiff, Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam’s Club in Reading from 1992-2002, said in her suit that she had to work through breaks and after quitting time to meet work demands in the bakery, and that she worked eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average, to meet work demands. “One of Wal-Mart’s undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees …,” said Hummel in her suit, according to the news reports.

The case was certified as a class action in January of this year (See PA Judge Approves Class in Wal-Mart Break Pay Case ). The lawsuit covers a class of 187,000 current and former hourly workers and covers practices at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores between 1998 and 2001.

The giant retailer is facing a number of similar suits in other states, the news reports said. Last December, a California jury hit Wal-Mart Stores with a $172 million verdict for not giving about 116,000 current and ex-employees an unpaid lunch break as required under a California law (See Golden State Jury Hits Wal-Mart with $172M Verdict in Lunch Break Case).