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2004-02-18
Portland, OR. Federal Jury Says Wal-Mart Must Pay For Forced Overtime.

The Associated Press has reported that on February 17th a federal jury in Oregon found Wal-Mart should have to compensate its workers that it forced to work overtime without pay. The Oregon decision presents yet another black eye for the giant retailer, which this year did not make it onto Fortune magazine's 100 Best Place to Work. The jury reviewed the cases of 83 plaintiffs who worked at Wal-Mart. The decision comes 14 months after a federal jury in Portland ruled that Wal-Mart coerced its employees at 18 Oregon stores to work overtime without pay from the years 1994 to 1999. This decision will no doubt be cited in as many as 36 other similar lawsuits currently pressed against the company. How much each worker will get from the jury decision is not finalized, but the totals are not expected to reach much higher than a few thousand dollars per worker. But the loss of image to Wal-Mart may be priceless. "The jury found that they did work off the clock, and should be compensated for it," said an attorney representing the workers. Wal-Mart has repeatedly said that company policy does not condone "off the clock" work, yet the lawsuits abound. The best spin Wal-Mart could put on the decision was to say, "The jury returned a verdict awarding substantially fewer unpaid, off-the-clock hours than were originally sought." The court did not hear all of the cases submitted for review, disqualifying some of the plaintiffs. It is now up to the U.S. District Court judge to decide how much Wal-Mart will have to shell out to compensate its own workers. The Wal-Mart workers charged that they were sometimes locked into the store, and worked without getting meal breaks. Wal-Mart's lawyers presented an unusual defense: they said managers were trying to encourage teamwork. In some earlier court cases on the same subject, Wal-Mart settled with the workers before the case came to trial, and in other cases the class action status of the plaintiffs was denied. Wal-Mart's workforce is abouit 3.5 times larger than the U.S. Army


What you can do: The judge in the Oregon case said he will take a while to decide what the cost will be to Wal-Mart, but the public relations damage to the company is immeasurable. Wal-Mart likes to boast that its workers are one happy family, yet as many as 45% of its workers leave each year. For similar stories, search this Newflash database by "off the clock."










 
 
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