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Posted February 22, 2017 by S. Ward Heinrichs
A couple of years ago, I wrote an article highlighting some of the major lawsuits involving Walmart. At that time, Walmart had won a United States Supreme Court case called Dukes v. Walmart. The Court ruled that a class of 1.5 million women could not sue on a class wide basis for discrimination. It said that no common policy and common facts linked the class together. The article also visited other discrimination cases and some wage and hour class action cases. In more recent times, the cases that have put Walmart in the news have been major wage and hour cases. Consequently, all but two case discussed below concern wage and hour class action.
Phipps v. Wal-Mart (Tennessee}
The Phipps case is an offshoot of the Dukes v. Walmart case. After the Supreme Court said the case could not proceed as a class action, many of the class members scrambled to file individual cases or regional class actions. The common theory was that Walmart discriminated against women when it came to equal pay and promotions. Courts issued unfavorable rulings in regional cases in California, Wisconsin, and Texas because they ruled that the individual claims were potentially too different. The California and Texas cases are on appeal. Phipps filed her case in Tennessee federal court, and Walmart has asked the judge to dismiss the case, claiming that the Tennessee Court should follow the rulings in the other courts.
Bruan v. Wal-Mart (Pennsylvania)
Pennsylvania The Supreme Court upheld a class action verdict of $187 million, which included attorneys’ fees. In April of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court did not accept the case for appeal. That left the Pennsylvania judgment intact. After interest, Walmart was required to pay a total of $224 million.
The case was a wage and hour class action in which the plaintiffs claimed that they were owed unpaid wages for time worked off the clock and for working through breaks. The biggest violations occurred during the December holiday crunch when managers would require employees to do whatever it took to get all the work completed. In an effort to comply, employees worked through their breaks and clocked out at the end of shifts but continued to work.
Brown v. Wal-Mart (California)
This case was a class action but was not for unpaid wages. It was based on violations of a California regulation that required: “all working employees shall be provided with suitable seats when the nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats.” Brown was a cashier at Walmart and she claims that she and other cashiers were not provided seats. Walmart contended that their duties did not reasonably permit the use of seats because they performed other tasks besides simply working their registers. The trial court had certified the class, which means that the case could proceed on a class wide basis. The Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal affirmed that ruling. Apparently, the case has neither gone to trial nor settled.
Store Employees v. Wal-Mart (Washington)
Just this month, a Washington state court approved a settlement of a wage and hour class action filed by store employees who claimed damages for missing meal periods and breaks and for working off the clock. The Court approved a total settlement of $35 million.
Walmart announced in December of 2016 that this settlement was part of a Walmart strategy to settle 63 wage and hour cases. It claimed that it had set aside $640 million to settle those cases.
Ridgeway v. Wal-Mart (California)
In November, a jury had said that Walmart had not paid its truckers for time spent in pre-driving and post-driving inspections, had violated rest break laws, and had not paid minimum wage for 10 hour layovers. A Court must determine the amount of money that Wal-Mart will pay to the truckers and heard arguments in January concerning what the total verdict should be. The truckers asked for nearly $86 million, but the Court said that it was inclined to only pay $5.8 million.
S. Ward Heinrichs, Esq.
Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
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