Wal-Mart lawsuit focuses on employees


PHILADELPHIA – A judge approved a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. by employees in Pennsylvania who say the company pressured them to work off the clock, claims that mirror those in suits filed around the country.

A California jury last month awarded Wal-Mart workers $172 million for illegally denied lunch breaks, while Wal-Mart settled a similar Colorado case for $50 million.

In Pennsylvania, the lead plaintiff’s suit alleges she worked through breaks and after quitting time – eight to 12 unpaid hours a month, on average – to meet work demands.

“One of Wal-Mart’s undisclosed secrets for its profitability is its creation and implementation of a system that encourages off-the-clock work for its hourly employees, …” Dolores Hummel, who worked at a Sam’s Club in Reading from 1992-2002, charged in her suit.

The suit was approved for class certification late last month by Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Mark I. Bernstein. The class could include nearly 150,000 current or former employees who worked at a Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club in the state since March 19, 1998.

“We strongly deny the allegations in this lawsuit. Wal-Mart’s policy is to pay associates for every minute they work,” the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said in a statement.

Wal-Mart earned $10 billion in 2004.