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Jury slaps Wal-Mart with $172M ruling
A California jury orders the retail giant to pay $172 million to workers denied lunch breaks.
December 22, 2005: 7:43 PM EST

(CNN) - Jurors in Oakland, Calif., Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employees after deciding that the world's largest retailer violated state law by denying lunch breaks, a court spokesman said.

Jurors in Alameda County Superior Court awarded $57 million in actual damages and $115 in punitive damages in the class action lawsuit filed in 2001.

Jessica Grant, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, spoke to Reuters after the ruling. "What was compelling for the jury was that we put a lot of evidence before them of memos by Wal-Mart from seven years ago that concluded they had been breaking the law," said Grant.

"Instead of taking steps to solve the problem, Wal-Mart concealed it."

Wal-Mart said in a statement to that it will appeal the ruling. "During the trial, a California court of appeals made a ruling in another case (Murphy v. Kenneth Cole) that directly supports Wal-Mart's position that the meal-period premiums in question are penalties, rather than wages. This means that punitive damages cannot be recovered in this case. In short, California law prohibits penalties on top of penalties."

Wal-Mart also claims to have addressed the problem by "adopting new technology that sends alerts to cashiers when it is time for their meal breaks. The system will automatically shut down registers if the cashier does not respond."

-- from staff and wire reports.


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