FINANCE

Court upholds $188 million judgment against Wal-Mart

BY Staff Writer

New York City — A Superior Court in Pennsylvania on Friday upheld a $187.6 million class action award against Wal-Mart Stores on allegations that its Pennsylvania employees were not properly compensated for off-the-clock work and missed rest breaks.

A panel said there was sufficient evidence at trial to conclude there had been a breach of contract, unjust enrichment and violations of state labor laws, the Associated Press reported.

The judges also ruled in a 211-page opinion that the presiding Philadelphia judge erred in determining some of the plaintiffs’ legal fees, and sent that part of the case back for recalculation.

The 2006 trial, which lasted 32 days, resulted in a finding that Wal-Mart did not pay employees for all the work they performed and did not let them take their paid, mandatory rest breaks, the judges wrote. The court awarded $46 million in attorneys’ fees, the report said.

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said the chain believes the court decision was wrong in a number of respects and looks forward to additional review in the courts, according to the Associated Press. Rossiter said the company has settled numerous lawsuits in other states that involved similar allegations, and the Philadelphia case is the only active one that he knows of.

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OPERATIONS

Williams-Sonoma launches international shipping

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco — Williams-Sonoma said Monday that it will offer international shipping across its brands. The chain is partnering with FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, a leading provider of international e-commerce services and infrastructure to U.S. retailers.

Customers in more than 75 countries are now able to shop online for Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids products, the company said. The same service for West Elm and Williams-Sonoma should launch by the end of the month.

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FINANCE

Amazon cuts off Arkansas affiliates

BY Staff Writer

New York City — Amazon.com said Friday that it would drop its online affiliates in Arkansas in response to a new state law that would have required the online retailer to start charging sales tax, the Associated Press reported.

Lawmakers passed a bill earlier this year to require out-of-state online retailers such as Amazon to collect sales tax from customers if their annual sales in the state exceed $10,000.

The bill applied to retailers with online affiliates, even if they don’t have a physical presence in the state. Amazon pays advertising fees to a network of so-called Amazon Associates in the state, who promote the company on their websites.

State law requires consumers to pay sales taxes on items they buy online, but the burden is on them to report the purchases. Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores and other state retailers say that opens a loophole that hurts their businesses.

Amazon opposed changing the law, and this week, it notified associates by email that it would terminate their contracts on July 24.

Amazon has made the same move in other states, including Illinois and Connecticut, which changed their sales tax laws.

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