From Bloomberg News
June 27, 2006
Lawyers for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. workers who won a $172-million verdict involving missed meal breaks in December asked a judge Monday to order the retailer to pay for missed rest breaks and urged the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure that it complied.
One of every 10 Wal-Mart employees in California isn’t being paid for missed breaks, violating a state law that requires they get an extra hour of wages, attorney Jessica Grant said at a hearing before Judge Ronald Sabraw in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. Wal-Mart knew as far back as 1998 that workers couldn’t take breaks because of understaffing, so the company stopped requiring them to clock in and out of rest periods to conceal evidence, she alleged.
Wal-Mart denies the claims.
An order in favor of the workers might force Wal-Mart to keep records on rest breaks, reinstate audits and pay for monitoring, while providing ammunition for employees in other cases.
Wal-Mart attorney Vineet Bhatia told Sabraw that an injunction wasn’t needed because the company already complies with California labor laws, which don’t require employers to make workers clock in and out of rest breaks. Data from the workers that show 360,000 breaks were missed don’t specify whether employees chose not to take them or were coerced, he said.
“The proper way to prove it is to show there was actual management coercion,” Bhatia said. “In every one of those 360,000, it was equally likely that it was the associate’s decision not to take the break.”
Wal-Mart shares rose 13 cents to $48.07.