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• Interesting story from Bloomberg about a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart centering on charges that “the company stole time from some 56,000 hourly workers at Minnesota Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs by making them work off the clock.”

While the charges are familiar, there are some paragraphs from the story that put some of the particulars in context:

1. “Shaving one-tenth of 1 percent off Wal-Mart's payroll would save the company $138 million, Wal-Mart's then-Chief Executive Officer, David Glass, said in 2001 while exhorting managers to cut back on labor costs, the Minnesota plaintiffs' lawyer, Justin Perl, said in opening statements.”

2. “While plaintiffs emphasize the big picture in these cases, Wal-Mart focuses on specifics. The strategy has served the company reasonably well in pre-trial skirmishes, not so well at trial … Lawyers for the company convinced courts in 19 of 30 attempted class actions that the workers' complaints were too individualized to be lumped together, especially not with others who may have no complaint. When class status is denied, the case usually dies … Of the remaining 11 attempts, 10 suits won class status and one awaits a decision.”

3. “So far only two such class actions have made it all the way to verdict, and they brought whopping wins for the plaintiffs: $141 million in actual damages, punitive damages and state penalties in Pennsylvania and $172 million in California. Wal- Mart settled a similar suit in Colorado for $50 million.”

4. “As for specific infractions, cash register records in California, for example, showed employees were ringing up sales during the same 30 minutes that time records showed them at lunch. An internal Wal-Mart audit from 2000 showed that during a single week's time, in 126 out of 127 stores surveyed nationally, workers missed or cut short 76,472 breaks. Plaintiffs' experts have extrapolated those findings to apply them to the class, a practice Wal-Mart has tried to rebut. Add to that the fact that store managers were urged to reduce labor costs every year and rewarded financially for doing so. If it took forcing employees to work off the clock, those passing out the bonuses looked the other way, the lawsuits claim.”
KC's View: