The West Virginia Record newspaper reported this week that another lawsuit has been filed against Wal-Mart, charging the company with stealing from its own workers by not fully crediting them for their hours worked. This practice is known as “time-shaving.” Sprawl-Busters reported on December 20, 2005 that Massachusetts Attorney Robert Bonsignore had charged Wal-Mart with time-shaving, and said the retailer was facing a serious class action lawsuit because of its prevalent “time shaving” violations against its workers. Bonsignore said that Wal-Mart had stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from its workers across the country. “Time shaving” is a form of theft in which the company fails to properly credit its employees for all the time they worked. According to Atty. Bonsignore, “Our case is going well. We have filed in a number of states and have had interest expressed in several more. We have proof that Wal-Mart secretly manipulated the time records of their hourly rate employees, robbing them of about $1,000,000 per year per store. We can prove they did this through objective electronic evidence from 1997 on.” On April 3, 2007, Charleston, West Virginia lawyer Troy Giatras filed suit in U. S. District Court claiming that Wal-Mart shaved minutes from payroll records. In the suit, three former employees at the South Charleston store seek to represent every employee Wal-Mart has stolen time from in West Virginia since 1989. Giatras said punitive damages for conscious disregard of employee rights would reform the “corporate culture.” “Wal-Mart convinces its employees that they are part of its ‘family,’ where they will be rewarded for being a team player and following Sam Walton’s rules,” the suit says. Giatras said the amount of time-shaving by Wal-Mart in West Virginia would be “specific, certain and capable of identification.” “Such evidence is contained in Wal-Mart’s state of the art time keeping system, which requires expert analysis to detect and comprehend,” the suit states. “In many instances, the amounts stolen by Wal-Mart from individual class members was small, but in the aggregate, the compensation wrongfully retained by Wal-Mart was substantial …” The suit was filed on behalf of three former Wal-Mart workers in South Charleston: Pam Brogan, Jane Markins and Francis Gail Patterson. “Although Wal-Mart claims in its uniform employee handbook that it ‘respects the individual,’ and welcomes employees into its ‘family,’ Wal-Mart unfairly shortchanges its hourly paid employees to obtain higher profitability.” The suit alleges that Wal-Mart routinely asks employees to complete assignments while not clocked in and that Wal-Mart altered records to make it appear employees took full meal breaks when they worked part of the time. It also claims Wal-Mart deleted hours over 40 and shaved time through other unlawful means. The suit seeks damages for conversion, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and breach of good faith and fair dealing. It also claims violations of West Virginia wage laws. “Only an award of punitive damages could be sufficient to deter such wrongful and intentional acts, and the despicable conduct of Wal-Mart in stealing labor represented by recorded time from its employees amply merits an award of punitive damages,” the suit states.
Bonsignore has filed lawsuits in at least 13 states, and has been requested to file in several more. According to one complaint developed in Utah, Wal-Mart is being sued “for its systematic failure to pay its hourly employees for all time worked, as well as Wal-Mart’s failure to provide employees with accurate itemized wage statements as required by law.” The class action case filed by Bonsignore says that “the allegations herein are supported by recently discovered evidence, including the videotaped admission of a Wal-Mart executive and Wal-Mart memoranda, showing that Wal-Mart deleted thousands of hours of time worked from employees’ payroll records during the relevant time frame — a practice known in the industry as “time shaving” — and that Wal-Mart required hourly employees to work hours that were not recorded in payroll records — a practice known in the industry as working “off-the-clock.” Plaintiff believes Wal-Mart perpetrated this practice in at least five different ways: (1) altering employee records to make it appear as if the employees’ workdays ended one minute after their meal period concluded, effectively denying employees their pay for the three or four hours of work they performed after the meal period (i.e., the “one-minute clock out” practice); (2) deleting overtime hours that employees worked in excess of forty hours (i.e., “the 40 hour club”); (3) deleting employee punches so that employees would not be paid for an entire day or afternoon of work; (4) altering employee time records to make it appear as if employees took meal periods when in fact they did not, resulting in unauthorized deductions from the employees’ paychecks; and (5) failing to pay employees for all reported time. Hourly employees were never and could not have been aware of these wrongful time shaving practices because Wal-Mart wrongfully and willfully concealed such facts from them… In addition, data recently produced by Defendants in similar cases in other jurisdictions revealed that hourly employees are commonly required to work “off-the-clock.”