Thursday, September 22, 2005

You Want A Salary And Lunch Too?

And now for the George Orwell Memorial Don't Look Over There, Just Listen Photo Of The Day:

Well, it's been a while since we checked in on the Corporate Overlords at Walmart (Motto: What do you care what a 12 year old Asian girl is earning?) so let's all take a trip to Bentonville Arkansas, or, as the locals like to call it, Mordor.

Lawyers representing about 116,000 former and current Wal-Mart employees in California told a jury Monday that the world's largest retailer systematically and illegally denied workers lunch breaks. "Well, 'denied' is such a strong word," said one company attorney. "We think our workers are just light eaters, that's all."

The case concerns a 2001 state law, which states employees who work at least six hours must have a 30-minute, unpaid lunch break. If they do not get that, the law requires they are paid for an additional hour of pay. "Yeesh. Lunch breaks, days off, living wages. No wonder America is at a competitive disadvantage in the world, the way we coddle our workers," said Hee Wang, a company spokesperson.

"I will prove the reason they did this was for the God Almighty dollar," Attorney Fred Furth said in his opening statement. When asked if he could conceive of a reason other than money to explain why Walmart did anything Furth responded, "OK, so that won't be the toughest part of my case."

Wal-Mart declined to give an opening statement, reserving its right to give one later. "We need to make first," said one Walmart attorney. "Can I see the juror list again?

The company claims that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. "Funny story there," said one of the attorneys who asked not to be named. "When they first brought the complaint we told them by law they couldn't file because all the clerks were on lunch break. It was weeks before they figured that one out."

Wal-Mart said that it did pay some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods as the law allows. "That was right after we told them we'd fire them if they didn't," said Wang. "Oh and we made the workers who got the extra pay return it too. Are we an efficient company or what?"

The lawsuit was brought in 2001 by a handful of San Francisco-area former Wal-Mart employees, and took four years of legal wrangling to get to trial. "We thought this whole thing was about being gay," said one company attorney. "Who knew straight people wanted lunch breaks too?"

During that time, Wal-Mart produced internal audits that plaintiffs' lawyers maintain showed the company knew it was not granting meal breaks on thousands of occasions. "Hey come on," said Wang. "Have you seen the size of some of our workers? Missing some lunch is part of our new employee health plan."

1 comment:

Demis Cunha said...

Seems to me that is happening all around the world. Here in Brazil a lot of companies have behaved like that you have told in you blog. There is mobile phone company here called Claro that denied their employees to go the restroom claim that they only work for 6 hour in theirs call certer. Really the world is lost!