More than 125,000 Wal-Mart workers involved in a wage and hour class action pending in Philadelphia will have $500 in waiting time penalties tacked on to their earlier collective award of $78.5 million. According to an Associated Press report:
Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania who previously won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will share an additional $62.3 million in damages, a judge ruled Wednesday.
About 125,000 people will receive $500 each in damages under a state law invoked when a company, without cause, withholds pay for more than 30 days.
A Philadelphia jury last year awarded the workers the exact amount they had sought, rejecting Wal-Mart's claim that some people chose to work through breaks or that a few minutes of extra work here and there was insignificant.
In his written opinion, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein wrote "The law in its majesty applies equally to highly paid executives and minimum wage clerks." By this time next week, google searches for the phrase "the law in its majesty" will be leading you mostly to this Wal-Mart story, rather than the amusing old quip by Anatole France: “The law in its majesty equally forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges."
A Wal-Mart spokesperson decried the award. "Many employees testified that they skipped rest breaks by choice. While we discourage that practice, employers should not be penalized when employees do that on their own," said the spokeswoman, Sharon Weber. That defense tactic failed in Wal-Mart's meal break class action in California last year, but it did help the retailer avoid certification of the rest period portion of the California class action.