Wal-Mart Hit With $78M Fine

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Wal-Mart must pay at least $78 million for violating Pennsylvania state labor laws by forcing employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, a jury decided Friday.

Michael Donovan, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, had asked the jury for at least that amount in compensatory damages for what he said were missed or shortened breaks, or time employees worked off the clock.

He will now seek an additional $62 million in damages because the jury found that Wal-Mart acted in bad faith. Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Bernstein is expected to rule on that issue later.

The class-action suit involves 187,000 current and former employees who worked at Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs in Pennsylvania from March 1998 through May of this year. The jury found Thursday that the nation's biggest retailer violated state labor laws.

Wal-Mart attorney Neil S. Manne said the company plans to appeal both the class certification and the jury's findings.

"It will be a very broad ranging appeal," said Manne.

Lead plaintiff Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam's Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit that she had to work through breaks and after quitting time to meet work demands in the bakery. She said she worked eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average, to meet work demands.

After the jury ruled on Friday, Hummel said the lawsuit was necessary "to show how we were treated working at Wal-Mart — working off the clock and not getting paid."

The plaintiffs used electronic evidence, such as systems that show when employees are signed on to cash registers and other machines, to help win class certification during several days of hearings last year.

Wal-Mart had a corporate policy that gives hourly employees in Pennsylvania one paid 15-minute break during a shift of at least three hours and two such breaks, plus an unpaid 30-minute meal break, on a shift of at least six hours.
  • Sean Alfano

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