Thursday, December 22, 2005

Will Work For Food

I’m not generally a Wal-Mart basher. Wal-Mart is far from my favorite store to shop in (particularly the dark, crowded store on Springfield’s west side Parkway Pointe development) but I’m usually not one to come down on the company for every aspect of its business model.

Having said that, I really think Wal-Mart doesn’t do its image any favors when stories like this come out:
OAKLAND, California (AP) -- A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.

The world's largest retailer was ordered to pay $57 million in general damages and $115 million in punitive damages to about 116,000 current and former California employees for violating a 2001 state law that requires employers to give 30-minute, unpaid lunch breaks to employees who work at least six hours.


The class-action lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court is one of about 40 nationwide alleging workplace violations by Wal-Mart, and the first to go to trial. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer, which earned $10 billion last year, settled a similar lawsuit in Colorado for $50 million.

In the California lunch-break suit, Wal-Mart claimed that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. Under the law, the company must pay workers a full hour's wages for every missed lunch.
Wal-Mart spends millions of dollars on advertising designed solely to bolster its image and then does things like this that renders the ad money wasted. Can’t you Wal-Mart guys turn off the efficiency machine a little bit when it comes to your employees? Must every last penny be squeezed out of the operation? At some point this becomes self-defeating. The lunch money can’t be worth the bad PR and legal costs.

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