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2002-12-19
Portland,OR. Wal-Mart Found Guilty of Stealing From Its Employees

The Associated Press reports today that a federal jury, in a unanimous verdict, has found Wal-Mart guilty of forcing its "associates" in Oregon to work "off the clock" in unpaid overtime over a 5 year period between 1994 and 1999. There are similar lawsuits in as many as 29 other states, from the east coast to the west coast. So this is the second or third step down a slippery slope for the company that says "respect for the individual" is the key to their employee culture. This wasn't just a handful of workers bringing this lawsuit. As many as 400 workers in 24 of Wal-Mart's 27 Oregon stores filed the suit. In a separate trial yet to come, a federal jury will make a decision on monetary damages against Wal-Mart. An articulate Wal-Mart spokesman told the AP: "I guess, basically, we are disappointed with the verdict. Wal-Mart has a strong policy of paying its associates for all the time they work, We would emphasize that this ruling affects only approximately 350 workers out of 15,000 in Oregon." Only 350 workers? That makes it OK to force them to work without pay? Add 2.5 family members per worker and we're up to 875 people who suffered "time theft" from Wal-Mart. The Oregon case was led by Carolyn Thiebes and Betty Anderson, two managerial workers at Wal-Mart. The lawsuit claimed that Wal-Mart managers deleted hours from time records, and put workers in the position of having to clean up the store after they had clocked out. Wal-Mart would punish workers who tried to get paid for their overtime. "I think the turning point (of the trial) was fairly simple. It was when Wal-Mart workers came in and told their stories about what happened at Wal-Mart stores," James Piotrowski, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the AP. The news service says Wal-Mart paid $50 million two years ago to settle an off-the-clock lawsuit covering 69,000 workers in Colorado, and $500,000 a case involving 120 workers in Gallup, New Mexico. The Wal-Mart case lasted about a month, and the jury took four days to arrive at their unanimous decision. Wal-Mart could appeal the case, which would then be heard in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

What you can do: Ironically, when Wal-Mart workers take a long lunch break, it is considered stealing from the company. But apparently its OK when the stealing goes against the workers. One Wal-Mart worker once explained to me the company's "respect for the individual" policy. "They respect the individual, I'm sure," she told me. "I just never met the individual." For more examples of employee abuse that Wal-Mart associates put up with, search this database by "employees".










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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