State Supreme Court Hands Down $188M Judgment Against Wal-Mart
Hot on the heels of the recent Supreme Court decision against Amazon workers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just upheld the 2007 judgment for $188 million against Wal-Mart Stores, in Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores. The class action suit affects 187,000 workers, who worked for the company between 1998 to 2006, and centers around Michelle Braun and other Wal-Mart employees, who claimed that they were not compensated for working off-the-clock, as well as through meals and breaks.
(Photo Credit: Mike Mozart/Wikimedia)
Representing the Wal-Mart workers, Attorney Michael D. Donovan says that the case demonstrates that the “shortchanging of workers at a mammoth employer should not be tolerated and that the justice system should provide some form of relief for low-wage workers, particularly through class actions,” according to Philly.com.
The decision this week represents an important milestone in the workers’ rights movement, but you may be wondering why it’s so important. Here are just a few key reasons that explains why we’re all sitting-up and taking notice.
1. Class-action suit.
Wal-Mart claims that this lawsuit is “trial-by-formula” (referring to the method used to determine damages and eligibility on the class-action scope), but the PA Supreme Court didn’t agree. Their opinion states that Wal-Mart practices “impeded the ability of employees, across the board, to take scheduled, promised, paid rest breaks,” according to The Legal Intelligencer.
In his dissenting opinion, however, Justice Thomas G. Saylor states that the majority opinion demonstrates a “relaxed” take on class-action law, based on the “anecdotal” evidence of a few.
2. Systemic Labor Infractions.
The PA Supreme Court ruled that the evidence supports the claim that “managers company-wide were pressured to increase profits, and decrease payroll by understaffing stores,” according to The Legal Intelligencer.
This latest ruling also piggy-backs on last week’s ruling from the National Labor Relations Board judge, against Wal-Mart. In that case, NLRB Judge Geoffrey Carter found that Wal-Mart could not punish, threaten, or intimidate employees for participating in a strike or other union-bargaining activities. You’ve probably heard the now-infamous line, from a Wal-Mart manager: “If it were up to me, I’d shoot the union.” Carter ruled that the illegal statement cannot be excused as hyperbole or opinion.
3. The Next Appeal.
Now, Wal-Mart says they will appeal this latest decision to the US Supreme Court. Speaking for Wal-Mart, Brooke Buchanen says, “Wal-Mart has had strong policies in place to make sure all associates receive their appropriate pay and break periods,” according to Reuters.
For his part, Donovan claims that Wal-Mart’s appeal to the Supreme Court would be a “complete waste of time, and just another affront to the Wal-Mart workers who earned this money and should be paid the wages they’re due,” according to The Legal Intelligence.
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