Skip to comments.Wal-Mart Employees Seek More Damages
Posted on 01/03/2007 6:20:39 PM PST by traumer
Wal-Mart Employees Ask Judge for Another $72 Million in Damages, Interest in Break-Time Case
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania who won a $78.5 million judgment for working off the clock and through rest breaks returned to court Wednesday to seek another $72 million in damages and interest.
They argue that about 125,000 plaintiffs in the class-action suit deserve an additional $500 each in damages, or $62 million, under Pennsylvania labor laws because the jury found that the world's largest retailer acted in bad faith. These so-called liquidated damages are designed to compensate people for the delay in payment.
The remaining 61,000 plaintiffs -- who do not qualify for those damages because of legal time limits -- should share in $10 million in interest on the back pay, lawyer Michael Donovan argued.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which denies wrongdoing and is appealing the jury award, opposed the added damages and interest. Company attorneys said that Donovan merely estimated the number of potential plaintiffs, and has not proven that each was shortchanged.
"They don't even know who they are," Wal-Mart lawyer Brian Flaherty said.
The workers already are expected to receive anywhere from about $50 to a few thousand dollars each from the initial award, depending on how long they worked for the company.
Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein did not immediately rule on the issues argued Wednesday. He questioned why Donovan sought liquidated damages of $500 per worker when the statute could be interpreted to allow $500 in damages each time a worker was shortchanged.
"If I'm a claimant, I'm entitled to everything the law says I'm entitled to, and if that's $500 every time I was shorted and I was shorted 24 times a year, then it's $12,000," Bernstein said.
Donovan said he did not interpret the state wage law that way. He added that Wal-Mart's lack of record-keeping would make it impossible to determine the number of individual violations.
Bernstein oversaw the five-week trial, which culminated in October when the jury rejected Wal-Mart's claim that some employees voluntarily chose to work through breaks and that the off-the-clock work was minimal.
The suit covers current and former employees who worked at Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs in Pennsylvania from March 1998 through May 2006.
Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., earned $11.2 billion in profits on $312.4 billion in sales in the last fiscal year. Donovan argued at trial that the unpaid work gave Wal-Mart an unfair advantage in the marketplace.
Lead plaintiff Dolores Hummel said she put in about 10 hours each month off the clock to keep up with demands at a Sam's Club in Reading, where the single mother worked for 10 years to support her son. Sam's Clubs are a division of Wal-Mart.
Donovan has also petitioned the court for more than $40 million in legal fees, plus $5.5 million in expenses. Wal-Mart, which must pay the fees unless the verdict is overturned, objected to the request and asked for more details.
Wal-Mart is appealing a $172 million verdict in a similar California case and settled a Colorado suit over unpaid wages for $50 million.
Wal-Mart policy in Pennsylvania gives hourly employees one paid 15-minute break during a shift of at least three hours and two such breaks, plus an unpaid 30-minute meal break, on a shift of at least six hours.
because no one has ever tried to sell me half-wolf puppies out of a cardboard box in the parking lot at Target.
Now THAT's FUNNY!!!
If what I just wrote made you sad or angry,
it was probably just a joke.
"Executive compensation is negotiated with the help of attorneys."
Indeed it is, and employees have the right to use an attorney when negotiating compensation also.
"What impact do you think it has on the average employee to watch a CEO preside over a 40% decline in the value of his company..."
CEO compensation is the business of the owners of the company, i.e., the shareholders, not the employees. Employees, if they wish to have some say in CEO compensation, may buy stock like any other individual. Unprofitable CEOs will soon find themselves unemployed, and unemployable.
Corporations are not job banks or welfare offices. They are not social engineering experimentation arenas designed to ensure "fairness" for everyone. Corporations exist to make a profit.
One of the great things about this country is that where you end up on the ladder need not depend on where you started. Any employee may gain the skills and education to potentially make himself CEO, if he wishes. There is no law saying one must be a wage earner for life. Many CEOs come from quite humble backgrounds, and I for one, do not begrudge them their success. As for the Ken Lays of the world, I believe they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But the vast majority of CEOs are not Ken Lay. The vast majority got where they are by out-learning, out-thinking and out-working everyone else around them.
As for the "feelings" of any particular employee, one might just as legitimately ask how employees "feel" when they lose their jobs because the union demanded wages and benefits the company couldn't afford to pay over the long term.
Unless I own stock in the company, the severance package of the CEO doesn't concern me any more than the hourly wage of the burger flipper. If I have partial ownership of either company, i.e., if I own stock, then I have a say.
If I have no stock in the company, and therefore no stake in the deal, preoccupation with the terms of someone else's severance package smacks of nothing more than plain old-fashioned jealousy.
I'm not preoccupied -- I'm amused. It makes me laugh to watch the TANSTAAFL, "everybody should be paid what they deserve" free market True Believers try to defend these slimeball con artists as they eat one Free Lunch after another at shareholder and employee expense.
As for jealousy: I have my own business and couldn't care less what anybody else makes. My family and I live in the magic land of Enough and are happy to do so.
"Yeah, lawyers and multimillion court cases."
Unions employ armies of lawyers and are not at all adverse to running to the courts at the drop of a hat. Litigation and the threat of litigation is one of the biggest hammers they employ, used much more often than strikes.
True story. No BS.
As for jealousy: I have my own business and couldn't care less..."
And yet, you've brought up CEO compensation in two posts I've seen so far.
Is your business unionized?
Whoops! Posted too soon.
I meant to add...if your business is not unionized, is it publicly-traded? Can I buy stock and then dictate your compensation? Or even, as some here would have it, get a job working for you, band with my fellow employees, and then dictate our salaries and benefits based on what we think we're worth, and demand you pay it whether your company can support that or not?
True story. No BS.
That's what makes it so damn funny. The true ones are the best kind.
If what I just wrote made you sad or angry,
it was probably just a joke.
If someone is needed to do something during their 15 minute break at our store they get to start the entire break over again.
If they only had 1-2 minutes left they still get 15 minutes more.
Note; While I agree with A. Pole on many issues, I'm not a big fan of unions as they currently exist. I support something more along the lines of medieval guilds. But bringng back the guilds would require the restructuring of our entire society, which won't happen until the whole unsustainable house of cards comes crashing down of its own accord. Until that happens, the best workers can hope for is to find work at businesses owned by geerous people like our folks and avoid working for slimeball con artists.
Non ligabis os bovis terentis in area fruges tuas ("Do not bind the mouths of the kine that tread the corn") Deuteronomy 25:4
Fair enough... difference noted. But she could easily 'document' anything on her own. As the complainant isn't she required to support her claim beyond a reasonable doubt? She could write anything she wanted somewhere and claim its 'documentation', but that simply creates a he said she said scenario. I would think that something more substantial would be needed. Perhaps Wal Mart security video that shows her actually working at a time when she was clearly off the clock.
We agree more than we differ, then, since you know there are human beings on both sides. Too many on this forum act like it's the eeeeevil corporations vs. the poor, innocent, put-upon wage slaves. Such simplistic, linear thinking isn't worthy of conservatives.
My extended family also owned a business when I was growing up in a non-right-to work-state. Like you, everyone lived frugally and reinvested every spare penny into building the business. Unfortunately, union agitators came in and demanded more pay and benefits than the business could support. The family tried to pay the wages for awhile, but eventually they were forced to liquidate the labor-intensive part of the business rather than go under. It was a terrible, terrible time for everyone, for the owners who who had acted in good faith at all times, were scrupulously honest, and paid good wages and benefits, and for the employees, who lost their jobs when the company went out of business. The union thugs merely went away to harass others.
I have little sympathy for unions. They once served a purpose, but no more. Now they're merely vehicles for socialism, for elevating the least common denominator at the expense of excellence. Employers will pay market wages and offer good benefits to skilled employees who contribute to the bottom line.
I can't speak to the facts of this case, but I can tell you what happened to me back in the early 80s when I worked at a Monkey Wards around Christmas one year. Due to increased help that was hired, the manager's expenses at the store were up. So he told people that they would be expected to work off the clock, because there would be no overtime pay, which automatically kicked in after 40 hours a week, for those of us who were full time workers. The manager actually timed everyone out (all the floor employees were hourly, myself included), and we were expected to clean and restock the disaster that was the toy department as well as our own departments, and it wan't unusual to have to stay for nearly 2 hours.
You ask how we were "forced?" Well, we were given a choice. "Do it my way, or the highway." We were told that if we didn't do what he wanted, and work the extra hours at no pay, we'd be fired, and given bad references. Back then, nobody thought about suing or anything like that. A few people did refuse to work, and they were fired on the spot and told to get out. And knowing some of the people, I was told that they were given VERY bad references by the manager, and had trouble getting another job.
By what right can one worker, or a group of workers, tell someone not to work? If I want to do a job for a particular wage, by what right can other workers in that industry forbid me from doing so?
If so, then it is not the business of workers to care about the interests of the owners or CEO. And the union is the best way to promote workers interests along with electing the pro-labor politicians. Everybody for his own.
If the few get too much and many get too little it is dangerous. Too much wealth or power corrupts while poverty demoralizes. Jealousy is a natural instinct like thirst or fear or feeling of pain or sexual desire, it serves a purpose.
Without instincts the mankind would die out.
I agree, the guilds would be much better than unions.
But bringing back the guilds would require the restructuring of our entire society
You sound very much like a totalitarian. This is America, not Poland of 40 years ago. We like free enterprise. Go away.
And I mean that in a nice way.