Wal-Mart on the Hook for $187.6 Million for Shortchanging Workers
Employees claim they were forced to work after clocking out
Score one for the little guy.
Corporate behemoth Wal-Mart just appealed to U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to have a multi-million dollar verdict against the company overturned.
But that plan failed. The nation’s highest court declined to take the case. That means Wal-Mart must pay out $187.6 million to settle up with 188,000 Pennsylvania workers that it cheated out of fair pay.
Anyone who has ever worked an hourly retail job can probably relate to what happened in this case. Let’s dig in to the details and then talk about what it means to you.
Forced to Work During Breaks
Imagine that you’re a cashier at a retail chain.
You go on break. It gets busy. You’re asked to jump back on register duty for a few minutes until things calm down. Next thing you know, your break is over and you’ve barely had a chance to sit down.
It’s unfair, but you know that your manager is probably under pressure to enforce overtime caps.
The kicker: At the end of the day, you go home with fewer dollars in your pocket while the corporate fat cats get a little richer.
That’s a similar scenario to what happened in the Wal-Mart case. A class of Wal-Mart workers claim that they were repeatedly asked to work during breaks or while they were off the clock.
Wal-Mart’s policy, according to the court opinion, was to compensate employees for rest and meal breaks. This policy is somewhat above and beyond what federal and state law requires in terms of breaks.
However, this seemingly generous policy was all smoke and mirrors, according to Michelle Braun and the other workers who sued the store. They claim that the company forced them to miss partial or entire breaks, and to work after they had already clocked out.
After weeks of testimony that included a slew of expert witnesses, the court let Wal-Mart off the hook in regard to meal breaks.
However, it refused to throw out the issues surrounding rest breaks and off-the-clock work.
The company was found guilty of violating its own compensation policies.
Wal-Mart appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But after nearly 10 years of legal wrangling, the court closed the books on this case. The corporate behemoth will now have to pay up for the wages it stole from its employees.
(The case discussed here is Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores.)
What You Need to Know About Breaks
When it comes to breaks, it’s important to know what you’re entitled to under both state and federal law. (For more information, check out this blog post we wrote last year on how Pennsylvania’s laws differ from federal laws.)
Of course, if companies decide to go above and beyond what the law requires, as in this case, they may still find themselves in hot water if they fail to follow their own policies.
If you feel that you haven’t been compensated in accordance with the law or with your company’s own policies, it’s a good idea to speak to an employment law attorney who has experience fighting wage and hour violations.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation to find out more about your rights.