The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. must pay $188 million to workers who sued the retail giant for unpaid hours, Reuters reported.
The class-action lawsuit ruling upheld a 2007 lower court ruling in favor of employees who said that Wal-Mart had failed to pay them for all the hours they worked and prevented them from taking full meal and rest breaks.
The decision affects more than 180,000 workers employed by Wal-Marts in Pennsylvania between 1998 and 2006.
“This is just another example of a continuing pattern of conduct of Wal-Mart abusing its workers and not treating them fairly,” commented Mark Proctor, attorney and president of the Levin, Papantonio law firm. “This is a perfect example of why lawyers and the justice system must step in and fight on the behalf of those who cannot fight for themselves; it is also an example of why the vehicle of class action must be available to remedy the wrongs done to people.”
Yesterday, Wal-Mart said that it was considering appealing the ruling all the way to the US Supreme Court. Company spokesperson Brooke Buchanan said, according to Reuters, that Wal-Mart did not believe the claims should have been lumped into a class-action suit.
“Wal-Mart has had strong policies in place to make sure all associates receive their appropriate pay and break periods,” she said, apparently not realizing that two courts have now ruled that they didn’t.
The Pennsylvania ruling comes on the heels of another ruling against Wal-Mart last week. A National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge found that the chain had, in fact, been threatening employees attempting to unionize at two California stores.
The ruling said that Wal-Mart had violated sections of the National Labor Relations Act by “enforcing its California dress code policy selectively and disparately against an employee who formed, joined and assisted OUR Walmart and/or the United Food and Commercial Workers Union,” engaged in “surveillance and/or [created] the impression of surveillance of employees’ protected activities in connection with an OUR Walmart protest,” and that a project supervisor had used racist remarks, threatened violence towards employees and said that if it were up to him, he’d “shoot the union.”
Wal-Mart has been mistreating, underpaying, and apparently even physically threatening its employees for years. These two rulings are hopefully the first of many against the corporation that will force it to pay workers a living wage and treat them like human beings.