In an ongoing class action wage and hour lawsuit, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. may be given a break, despite breaking employment law by having its employees work overtime and skip breaks without pay. Filed in Minnesota court in 2002, the lawsuit alleges break and wage violations and represents about 100,000 current and former hourly Wal-Mart employees who claim they were forced to work without pay before and after their shifts so Wal-Mart managers could meet profit and productivity goals.
Earlier this year in July, the state judge threatened to impose a fine of $1,000 per violation; Wal-Mart would then owe more than $2 billion in fines, with a majority of this money being returned to unpaid hourly employees and a part going to the state. At that time, the judge had also ruled that Wal-Mart owed $6.5 million to 56,000 employees for failing at least 1.5 million times to give workers promised rest breaks and that the company had failed to provide time to eat a meal 73,864 times.
As in many wage and hour lawsuits, systematically missed breaks add up, which is why a company try to cut corners will work their wage workers without pay. While a single missed break can be worth less than a dollar, the failure to allow a break repeated many times over comes to a substantial amount of unpaid wages.