Off the Clock Overtime Claims

By James Hatch

Mar. 23, 2006

Wal-Mart faces a Pennsylvania class-action lawsuit in which a court certified a class of 150,000 former and current employees at 130 stores in Pennsylvania. The employees allege that they were not paid for their breaks and lunch periods and were forced to work off the clock. The plaintiffs used Wal-Mart’s own computer records of employee time and activity to convince the court that class certification was proper.

    Those records recorded the “total hours worked” and “total breaks” for every employee for every shift worked. Wal-Mart records called a Time Clock Punch Exception Report listed missed or inadequate breaks. Plaintiffs used statisticians to review those records. Those statisticians reported that 64.6 percent of 23,919 individual shifts contained deficiencies in duration of rest and meal breaks.

    Wal-Mart defended, in part, by arguing that those records were inadequate. The court rejected Wal-Mart’s “unreliability” argument and certified a class. Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 2005 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 551 (Dec. 27, 2005).

    Impact: Whether employers want to maintain computerized records like Wal-Mart did is questionable. The court noted that Wal-Mart, after several other lawsuits, decided in 2001 that rest break data should no longer be maintained by computer record. Computer records can be helpful. If, however, they contain the wrong information, they can be used as a sword against, instead of a shield for, the company.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with