Wal-Mart Accused of Denying Lunch Breaks

Oakland, Calif., Lawyers representing about 116,000 former and current Wal-Mart Stores employees in California told a jury Monday that the retailer systematically and illegally denied workers lunch breaks. The lawsuit covers former and current employees in California from 2001 to 2005.

The class-action suit in Alameda Superior Court claims that the workers are owed more than $66 million plus interest. Millions of dollars are also being sought to push the company for the alleged wrongdoing.

The case concerns a 2001 state law that is considered one of the nation’s most worker-friendly. It states that employees who work at least six hours must have a 30-minute, unpaid lunch break. If they do not get it, the law requires that they be paid for an additional hour of pay.

Wal-Mart declined to give an opening statement and its lawyers declined comment. In court documents, the company claims that workers did not demand penalty wages on a timely basis. The chain adds that it did pay some employees their penalty pay and, in 2003, most workers agreed to waive their meal periods as the law allows.

The lawsuit was brought in 2001 by a handful of former Wal-Mart employees in the San Francisco area and took four years of legal wrangling to get to trial.

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