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75,000 Walmart Employees File Class Action

  Class Action  -   POSTED: 2007/11/30 15:23

More than 75,000 current or former Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) employees in the State of Washington will receive letters over the next several days notifying them that they are part of a statewide class action lawsuit against the nation’s largest private employer: Wal-Mart. The lawsuit, which was filed in 2001, is believed to be the largest class action in the State’s history. Beth Terrell, attorney with the Seattle law firm Tousley Brain Stephens, will address the Seattle media this morning at 10:30 a.m. at the firm’s offices: 1700 7th Avenue, Suite 2200, downtown Seattle.

According to the notice that could arrive in the mail as early as today, hourly employees who worked “off the clock” (without compensation) or worked through rest or meal breaks at Wal-Mart or Sam’s Club stores in Washington at any time from September 10, 1997, to the present are automatically considered Class Members. Employees in the class will share in any money or benefits that come from a trial or settlement.

The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court nearly six years ago and was certified as a class action in October of 2004. The case was put on hold when Wal-Mart appealed the class-certification decision to both the State Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals ruled against Wal-Mart and affirmed class certification. The Supreme Court denied review, allowing the lawsuit to move forward.

Trial is expected to begin in Spring of 2009. King County Superior Judge Julie Spector will preside.

Attorney Beth Terrell (Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC, Seattle), represents the employees. Terrell says the court’s decision to allow the case to proceed as a class action “is a victory for Wal-Mart employees who, like other hourly employees in Washington, deserve to receive proper rest and meal breaks and to be paid for all hours worked.”

For a decade now, hourly employees of Washington Wal-Mart stores have complained of missing their rest and meal breaks and having to work off the clock. Georgie Hartwig, one of the plaintiffs in the class action, will participate in today’s press conference.

Hartwig worked for the Colville, Washington store for six years, and estimates that she worked two to five hours over her “clocked” time every week. “For hourly workers like Wal-Mart employees, a few hours of pay a week can make a real difference in their paychecks,” Terrell stated. Hartwig’s work load was so heavy that she often skipped meal and rest breaks in order to finish her work.

Hartwig’s story is echoed by other Wal-Mart employees, not only in Washington, but around the country. In California, a judgment was entered against Wal-Mart for nearly $167 million brought on behalf of 115,919 employees who said they did not receive proper meal breaks. In Pennsylvania, a $151 million dollar judgment was entered against Wal-Mart on behalf of 187,000 employees who made similar claims about breaks, and worked off the clock without pay. A class action on behalf of 56,000 Minnesota Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees is currently in trial in that state. That trial is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Rachel Geman, co-lead class counsel (Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, New York), says, “Wal-Mart’s own documents show that it systematically deprived its employees of hard-earned pay through widespread wage and hour violations. Wal-Mart knew about these violations but did nothing to correct them.”

WAL-MART EMPLOYEES SEEKING INFORMATION ABOUT THIS CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT ARE ENCOURAGED TO GO TO: www.walmartwageswa.com or call toll free 800-795-8543.

MS. HARTWIG AND ATTORNEY BETH TERRELL WILL DISCUSS THE LAWSUIT WITH MEMBERS OF THE PRESS AT 10:30 A.M. (PACIFIC). COPIES OF LEGAL DOCUMENTS WILL BE PROVIDED TO MEMBERS OF THE PRESS ATTENDING THE PRESS CONFERENCE.

For further information, contact Seattle attorney Beth Terrell at 206-682-5600.

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