The award by Common Pleas Court Judge Mark I. Bernstein, which amounts to about $500 per worker, came on top of the $78.5 million awarded by a Philadelphia jury nearly a year ago after a five-week trial in the class-action case. The Court ordered Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to pay $62.3 million in statutory damages to 124,506 current and former Pennsylvania employees of the company from 2002 through May 2006 who were not paid when they worked during rest breaks.
In October 2006, the jury found that Wal-Mart did not compensate workers for time they had worked without pay and for missed breaks, and that the company had no good reason for this. The jury found that Wal-Mart had saved more than $49 million by not paying workers properly. “The jury found the defendant Wal-Mart abused their workers” in a way that can be remedied by the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law, the judge wrote in his opinion.
The class in the case numbers 187,000 workers and covers pay missed between March 1998 and May 2006. The $62.3 million extra applies to 124,506 workers employed between January 2002 and May 2006, while the statute of limitations was still in effect.
In his 12-page opinion, Judge Bernstein stressed the importance of compensating workers for their time.
“The law in its majesty applies equally to highly paid executives and minimum-wage clerks,” he wrote. “Just as highly paid executives’ promised equity interests . . . are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements . . ., so too [are] the monetary equivalents of ‘paid break’ time cashiers and other employees were prohibited from taking.”