The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has affirmed a $151 million damage award to employees of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in Pennsylvania who worked off the clock, when they were supposed to be on break, or who were forced to skip their breaks. Over 186,000 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees who were employed. from March 1998 through April 2006 will share in the award. In addition to the $151 million award to the employees, their attorneys received an award of $45 million of which Wal-Mart is responsible for paying $33.8 million.
In Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the employees asserted that Wal-Mart had promised paid rest and meal breaks, but then forced the employees in whole or in part, to miss breaks or work through breaks, and also to work “off-the-clock,” by working without pay, after a scheduled shift had concluded. Evidence presented at the trial showed that during orientation for new employees, employee handbooks were distributed that informed employees that they are entitled to paid rest breaks and that they will be paid for all hours worked. Additionally, all employees were informed about Wal-Mart’s rest break policy and its off-the-clock work policy. The rest break policy states that a paid, 15-minute break will be given to an employee who works between three and six hours, and that an additional paid, 15-minute break will be given to an employee who works more than six hours. The rest break policy requires that employees take full, uninterrupted breaks, and warns that disciplinary action may result if an employee misses breaks or takes breaks that are either too long or too short. Wal-Mart’s off-the-clock work policy also provided hat it is against company policy for any employee to perform work without being paid, and that employees will be compensated for all work performed. Prior to February 10, 2001, Wal-Mart employees were required to clock out and clock back in for each rest break, however Wal-Mart then eliminated its policy requiring employees to clock out and clock back in for each rest break.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Wal-Mart’s own universal employment and wage policies, as well as its own business records and internal audits were sufficient to support the determination that there was an extensive pattern of discrepancies between the number and duration of breaks earned and the number and duration of breaks taken. Consequently, the court held that evidence was presented which supported an inference that Wal-Mart managers company-wide were pressured to increase profits and decrease payroll by understaffing stores through the preferred scheduling system, and that these factors, including the managers’ annual bonus compensation program, impeded the ability of employees, across the board, to take scheduled, promised, paid rest breaks.
Abramson Employment Law represents employees who have claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Pennsylvania law for unpaid wages and overtime pay. For more information see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1126494.html