Sun, Oct 15, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Wal-Mart must pay after losing lawsuit over missed breaks


Wal-Mart Stores Inc must pay at least US$78 million for violating Pennsylvania state labor laws by forcing some employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, a jury decided on 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 US$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 Club membership warehouses in Pennsylvania from March 1998 through May this year. The jury found on Thursday that the US' biggest retailer violated state labor laws.

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

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

Lead plaintiff Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam's Club in Reading from 1992 to 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.

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