It was an appropriate way for the world’s largest retailer to end the year: in court. Wal-Mart took a hit in its own home state on the last day of 2002, when a federal judge in Fayetteville, Arkansas refused to approve Wal-Mart’s motion to throw out the class action nature of a lawsuit brought by an Wal-Mart employee who says he was forced to work overtime without pay. Former Wal-Mart “associate” Mark Freeman, who lives in Benton County, filed his class action lawsuit under the National Fair Labor Standards Act last August in Fayetteville. Freeman worked for six years for Wal-Mart in its Information Systems Program Analysis department, according to The Morning News. The class of workers Freeman is attempting to include are “current or former nonexempt, nonadministrative or nonmanagerial salaried employees of Wal-Mart who have worked in positions whereby they worked in excess of 40 hours per week without proper compensation,” according to the suit. Wal-Mart asked the court to disallow the class action nature of the suit, which would broaden Freeman’s case to all similarly aggrieved workers, because the class was “too broad” and the plaintiff had filed his request too late. Freeman has charged that Wal-Mart routinely engages in unlawful conduct by failing to properly pay salaried workers like himself who are not managerial positions. Certain managerial or administrative positions are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act — but not salaried workers like Freeman. Wal-Mart, in its defense, says that Freeman carried a beeper and had to be on-call at certain times. The company claims he was paid for those extra hours, and says there is no class of workers represented by Freeman. The plaintiff now has until January 31st to file more information about the class of workers who should be covered in his lawsuit. The Judges ruling is a setback for Wal-Mart, but the merits of the case will not come out until after the class action status is decided.
This “work without pay” issue has been the subject of many entries on this Newsflash database. For more recent decisions about Wal-Mart’s unlawful actions as an employer, search this page by the words “employee” or “time bandits”. In roughly 30 states, Wal-Mart is being sued by its current or former employees for requiring them to work uncompensated hours.