Wednesday, December 17, 2014

PA Supreme Court Affirms Nine-Figure Judgment Against Wal-Mart

On Monday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued its long-awaited opinion in Braun v. Wal-Mart. A jury trial ended with a $188 million verdict in favor of a class of 188,000 Wal-Mart employees.
[The employees] asserted that Wal-Mart had promised them paid rest and meal breaks, but then had forced them, in whole or in part, to miss breaks or work through breaks, and also to work “off-the-clock,” i.e., to work without pay, after a scheduled shift had concluded.
On appeal, Wal-Mart argued that "the class action proceedings in this case improperly subjected [Wal-Mart] to a 'trial by formula.'"

Frankly, the legal analysis was pretty vague and pretty brief for a case of this complexity and magnitude. The Court did explain:
In this case, where systemic wage-and-hour violations were asserted, evidence was presented by appellees that, if believed, supported an inference that Wal-Mart managers company-wide were pressured to increase profits and decrease payroll by understaffing stores through the preferred scheduling system, and that these factors, including the managers’ annual bonus compensation program, impeded the ability of employees, across the board, to take scheduled, promised, paid rest breaks.
The Court rejected Wal-Mart's assertion that it was subjected to a "trial by formula" and instead concluded that a proper "replicated proof" method had been used. I'm guessing there will still be some "massaging" of the final number - but it looks like Wal-Mart will be on the hook for a couple hundred million dollars.