Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,  2011 PA Super 121, decided June 10, 2011

Plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit in 2003 action to recover unpaid wages they earned for overtime work and missed or shortened meal and break periods. The suit asked for mandatory statutory liquidated damages under the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act (“WPCL”) claiming that defendants failed to pay them for work they performed, failed to allow employees to take their paid, mandatory, rest breaks; and prohibited them from taking promised, paid, rest breaks.
In October 2006, a jury found for plaintiffs on their rest breaks and off-the-clock work claims and for Wal-Mart on the meal period claims.  Based on plaintiffs’ expert witness reports and calculations, it found that Wal-Mart required its employees to work without pay by directing them to not record their hours on its computerized pay system, and that Wal-Mart did not have a good-faith reason for refusing to pay its employees everything they had earned. The trial court awarded damages to plaintiffs totaling $62,253,000, as calculated by plaintiffs’ expert witnesses who analyzed Wal-Mart’s business records and extrapolated this data in their calculations.  Based on the experts’ findings that 98.81% of the class experienced at least one rest-break violation, the Court ordered that damages be paid as a single, statutory penalty per class member, thus the $62,253,000 total.

Wal-Mart appealed, arguing that the jury verdict was not subject to liquidated damages as mandated by the WPCL, an argument rejected outright by the Superior Court hearing the appeal, which concluded that the Appellees demonstrated a “systemic loss of contractual break time,” based on these experts’ analysis.

Contributed by:  Ron Wainrib, Esq.