A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.Apparently, these were the best arguments that Wal-Mart could muster:
The world’s largest retailer was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to about 116,000 current and former California employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.
In the California lunch-break suit, Wal-Mart claimed that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. Under the law, the company must pay workers a full hour’s wages for every missed lunch."Yeah, we're guilty of denying employees their lunch break, but they didn't file the paperwork quickly enough."
The company also said it paid some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods as the law allows.
It's not hard to guarantee "low, low prices" when you make your employees work through the lunch hour. Any day now, I suspect the retail giant will debut a new TV ad with the tagline: "Wal-Mart: Helping Its Employees Lose Weight."