Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wal-Mart Broke MN Labor Laws Over 2 Million Times
by Lindsay Beyerstein, ALTERNET, 07/03/08

A Minnesota judge awarded $6.5 million in damages to Wal-Mart employees for wage-and-hour violations. This is the third wage-and-hour court battle Wal-Mart has lost in a row:
Wal-Mart and its lead trial counsel, Houston's Susman Godfrey, are now 0-for-3 in wage-and-hour class action trials.

On Tuesday, after a three-month bench trial, a state court judge in Minnesota ruled that in failing to provide rest breaks, Wal-Mart broke state labor laws more than 2 million times. Judge Robert King Jr. awarded $6.5 million in compensatory damages to the class, which consists of about 56,000 Wal-Mart employees in Minnesota.

King's ruling follows a $172 million jury verdict against Wal-Mart in California in 2005 and a $78 million jury verdict in Pennsylvania in 2006. Both cases are on appeal. Susman Godfrey represented the company in both trials and is leading the appeals as well. Partner Neal Manne, who tried all three Wal-Mart cases, declined to comment and referred questions to Wal-Mart spokesperson Daphne Moore. In an e-mail statement, Moore said, "We are pleased that the court in Minnesota ruled in Wal-Mart's favor on many points before, during, and after trial. We respectfully disagree with portions of the decision. As part of the order, the court invited both parties to file an appeal, and we are considering that option." Wal-Mart's national coordinating counsel, Brian Duffy of Greenberg Traurig, did not return calls for comment. [American Lawyer]
Let's hope Wal-Mart's losing streak is a sign of things to come. Maybe the courts can see their way clear to penalizing them enough to actually discourage the company from violating wage-and-hour laws in the first place--the threat of a $3.25 penalty per incident of lawlessness isn't enough to keep Wal-Mart honest.

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