Ahhhh, my Christmas present came early! More reasons to dislike, loathe and hate Wal-Mart.
The gift came wrapped by a California jury today (Thursday, Dec. 22) when it awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.
According to the Associated Press, the world’s largest retailer (and biggest pariah) was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to some 116,000 current, and former, California-based Wal-Mart employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.
The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County (Oakland) Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. Forty! Think about that for a moment! Let’s that rattle in your mind. Forty!
Wal-Mart, which earned $10 billion (with a big “B”) last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million (with a little “M”).
In the California lawsuit, Wal-Mart claimed that workers did not “demand” penalty wages on a “timely basis.” The law says a company must pay its workers a full hour’s wages for every missed lunch.
Wal-Mart said it did pay some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods … as permitted by the law.
The lawsuit covers former and current employees in California from 2001 to 2005. The workers claimed they were owed more than $66 million (plus interest) and wanted damages to punish the company for its wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart attorney Neal Manne said the jury’s verdict, reached after nearly three days of deliberations and four months of testimony according to the AP, would likely be appealed.
“We absolutely disagree with their findings,” Manne stating the obvious after the jury’s verdict. He “conceded” that Wal-Mart made “mistakes” by not always allowing for lunch breaks when the 2001 law took affect. But he added that Wal-Mart is “100 percent” in compliance now … after the horse has left the barn. Wal-Mart is one of those corporations that thinks it should be rewarded for admitting to gross violations of labor laws, which are just so many flies to be shooed away from the summer picnic.
He claimed the state law in question could only be enforced by California regulators in a courtroom, not by workers. He added that Wal-Mart did not believe the lunch law allowed for punitive damages.
Great! The workers had no rights under a law trying to protect them … such elitism legal mumbo-jumbo should be tossed out with the other garbage. Yet people who want cheap will overlook this kind of behavior solely to get cheap crap – regardless of adverse labor policies, including massive hiring of illegal aliens to work in Wal-Mart outlets.
The lawsuit was filed by several former Wal-Mart employees in the San Francisco Bay area in 2001, but it took four long years before going to trial.
Amidst it all, Wal-Mart is waging a high-powered public-relations campaign to counter the torrent of criticism aimed to stop the rampant expansion and force the company to increase workers’ salaries and benefits to merely being sub-standard from non-existent.
Wal-Mart was forced to add lower-cost health insurance this year after an internal memo showed 46 percent (46 PERCENT!!!) of Wal-Mart employees’ children were on Medicaid … or totally uninsured. Shameful!
Another federal lawsuit, pending in San Francisco, accuses the company of paying men more than women. Sweet! What else is going to happen?
Not enough if you ask me.
Merry Christmas, Bentonville! Santa should dump all the lumps of coal he can find on your heads … until you change!!!