Wal-Mart's new labor disgrace: How it's trying to weasel its way out of hundreds of millions in damages

The retailer owes its workers in excess of $150 million, and it's doing everything in its power to escape payment

By Michael Arria
Published April 2, 2015 8:15AM (EDT)
  (Reuters/Kevork Djansezian)
(Reuters/Kevork Djansezian)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.


Walmart employees have over $187 in damages they can collect from a successful wage theft lawsuit, but the company is arguing that each victim should get their own lawyer.

At the end of the 2014, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed lower court rulings which dictated Walmart was required to pay $151 million in unpaid wages and damages. This sum is supposed to go to an estimated 186,000 employees who worked for the company from 1998-2006. Including attorney fees, the total actually reaches over $187 million.

The ruling stems from a 2002 class action lawsuit that was filed against the retail giant in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. The plaintiffs claimed that Walmart made them work through 33 million allotted rest breaks because management was under pressure to cut down labor costs. According to the lawsuit, managers received lucrative bonuses if certain profits were reached. Forcing workers to skip their breaks would, no doubt, increase their chances of obtaining the bonuses.

Walmart’s tenacity for fighting lawsuits is well known. It spent over $2 million trying to squash a $7,000 OSHA fine for a Black Friday trampling death, before recently agreeing to stop contesting it. It fought the fine for seven years. In 2011 Walmart effectively torpedoed the Walmart v. Dukes case, a historic lawsuit which claimed the company was guilty of widespread sexual discrimination. Walmart was able to stave it off, after the case had made it all the way up to the Supreme Court, by claiming the process was merely a “trial by formula.” That means that the plaintiffs failed to prove everyone was impacted in the same way.

Walmart attempted to use the same strategy to destroy this lawsuit, but this time the method failed. It remains to be seen whether this one will end up in front of the Supreme Court, as it doesn’t seem like Walmart has any intention of paying soon. Speaking to the Wilkes Barre Times-Leader‎, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove explained, “We’ve continually said that if someone believes someone was not allowed to take breaks, they should have those claims reviewed on an individual basis.”

Walmart is well aware of the fact that its low-income employees lack the resources to individually sue a company that is prepared to drop $2 million to avoid a fine. It’s appealing to the US Supreme Court once again and locking down for yet another fight.

Michael Arria

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Alternet Labor Wage Theft Wal-mart