Wal-Mart settles labor allegations

by Nick Rees |
Sep. 25, 2009, 5:00pm

Martha Coakley (D)

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts' attorney general has reached a settlement with Wal-Mart Stores over allegations the retailer failed to comply with the Massachusetts Meal Break Law.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., has agreed to pay $3 million to the commonwealth to resolve Attorney General Martha Coakley's outstanding allegations.

An investigation into Wal-Mart's meal break policies was launched by the attorney general's Fair Labor Division, following reports from workers that they were required to work through their meal breaks.

The workers also reported that they were only allowed to take meal breaks after working for more than six hours or that some of their meal breaks lasted for less than 30 minutes.

The Massachusetts Meal Break Law states that employers cannot require employees to work for longer than six hours without providing a thirty minute meal break. During the proscribed 30 minute break, employees are required to be relieved of all duties and must be free to leave the work premises.

Damages or restitution for workers are not mandated by the law.

Wal-Mart, after contact was made by the attorney general's office, cooperated fully with the investigation and re-affirmed its commitment to compliance with all wage and hour laws, Coakley's office said.

Wal-Mart -- the largest private employer in the United States -- is no stranger to allegations of violations of flouting laws related to rest and meal breaks.

Last year, the company agreed to pay as much as $640 million to settle 63 suits that alleged workers were routinely underpaid nationwide.

Wal-Mart also agreed to continue its use of electronic systems as means of documenting compliance with both state and federal labor laws.

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