According to a columnist in the Burlington Free Press this week, a trial in federal court involved allegations that Wal-Mart violated labor laws and even imprisoned its own “associate” along the way. The jury in the case sided in favor of the Wal-Mart employee, who had been accused of stealing merchandise, The jury gave Kristy Myers $26,473 in back wages and damages. Wal-Mart has until Valentine’s Day to appeal the decision. Myers worked for Wal-Mart in the pharmacy. She sued the company in 2000, saying that she was frequently forced to work overtime without pay. While she was “off the clock”, she had to put up in-store displays, going around town checking the price of competitors’ drugs, and deliver gifts to doctors’ offices to encourage prescription referrals. She testified that on her own time she had to deliver damaged goods to a local health program. “I would give them damaged goods, things we could not return and get our money back for.” The Free Press says that Wal-Mart admitted to facing lawsuits in 30 states involving claims that workers were not paid for overtime hours. But Kristy Myers was also held against her will in the store. She testified that on one of her vacation days, she was working on a display when Wal-Mart’s “shoplifting” (they call it “loss prevention”) specialist took her into a backroom in the store and interrogated her for three hours. Wal-Mart accused her of stealing $20,000 in merchandise, a figure later adjusted to $2,000. Kristy was told that if she didn’t confess, she would spend the night in jail while the company went to her home and conducted a search for stolen goods.”It was the worst experience in my whole life,” Myers told the Free Press. Scared and under stress, Myers signed a confession and was fired. For most of the items “stolen”, Kristy had receipts. Wal-Mart complained that Myers had confessed to the theft. “We are disappointed in the jury verdict,” a Wal-Mart spokesman said.
I have recorded similar stories on this website of Wal-Mart employees being accused of theft, and later exonerated. For similar stories about supposed employee theft, search this database using “theft”, and see the 9/15/00 story about an employee who suffered a similar fate as Kristy. For unpaid overtime violations, search the database using “overtime”.