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Courts Award Plaintiffs $151 Million in Unpaid Wages Lawsuit; Walmart May Appeal

Three courts find for plaintiffs in massive unpaid wages lawsuit against Walmart and Sam's Club. But Walmart indicates it may appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was about as big an unpaid wages lawsuit as one would find, brought against two of the biggest retail juggernauts of them all: Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. Lower courts found for the plaintiffs. And while the defendants appealed their case through state appellate and supreme courts in Philadelphia, in the end the original findings for the plaintiff were upheld, tagging Wal-Mart and Sam's Club with a bill for unpaid wages and damages worth $151 million. The decision came just in time for the Christmas break last year, making for a nice Yuletide gift for the plaintiffs involved - and there are a lot of them: 187,000 who worked for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from March 1998 through April 2006 and potentially stand to benefit from the decision, pending a possible appeal. According to The Philadelphia Enquirer (12/16/14), the allegations, dating back to 2002 when the original lawsuit was brought on behalf of lead plaintiff Michelle Braun, involve a mandate to work through meal breaks and rest periods, as well as other forms of off-the-clock work. A jury in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court found, in 2006 when the case was tried, that the defendants were not at fault over the meal break issue, but in the same breath agreed that Wal-Mart and Sam's Club had deprived employees of wages when they were required to toil during rest periods and at various other times when they were not on the clock, but still performing tasks. The judge in the case, the honorable Mark I. Bernstein of the Common Pleas Court, awarded the plaintiffs a total of $151 million in wages and damages, together with $45 million in attorney's fees. Wal-Mart, according to the report, appealed to the Superior Court and argued that trying the case in any other fashion than having each of the 187,000 class members testifying individually, was simply unfair. It also, quite simply, may not be over yet. When the decision was announced in December, Wal-Mart hinted that it may appeal the verdict to the US Supreme Court. The retail giant says that it quite properly pays its 1.3 million employees the mandated wages and benefits, and that its timekeeping systems have been enhanced over the last 10 years or so. Wal-Mart and Sam's Club may be pleading innocence in the unpaid wages claim, even though three different courts have sided with the plaintiffs. If Wal-Mart decides to pursue an appeal to the US Supreme Court, will the honorable justices dismiss the findings of a triumvirate of lower courts? Or will the process just delay the inevitable? We will soon know. Meanwhile, with so many demands on an individual's time in such a high-tech world, employees are taking an increasingly dim view of off-the-clock work for no pay, and are letting their unpaid wages attorney know that they are more than willing to fight back... Originally posted by Gordon Gibb on

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