August 9, 2001 -- A former Wal-Mart employee has filed a class-action suit against the retail giant for forcing employees to work without pay — sometimes by locking them into the stores — after their shifts had ended.
Maria Gamble of Farmingville, N.Y., is filing suit on behalf of 20,000 current and former Wal-Mart employees in New York state who claim that they were denied pay for overtime hours worked.
Gamble claims that while she worked at Wal-Mart's store in Centereach, N.Y., she and other hourly workers were routinely locked in the store at night where they would have to restock merchandise and count out the cash registers, even though the workers had already gone off the clock. Gamble says the tasks often took two extra hours.
"What I want from this lawsuit is simple, and it is fair. When people work, they should get paid," Gamble said in a statement.
The suit also charges Wal-Mart with requiring employees to work through meals and rest breaks and not providing "spread of hours" pay, which requires that an employee working more than 10 consecutive hours is entitled to one additional hour of minimum wage pay. The plaintiffs want to receive their unpaid overtime spread-of-hours wages, reasonable attorneys' fees and the costs of the action, according to the suit, which was filed in New York State Supreme Court.
Lawyers for the plaintiff say employees would be intimidated into working the extra hours by being given fewer hours to work or by not getting promotions.
"Any opportunity for advancement would be impacted by their insistence of not working off the clock," says Adam T. Klein, attorney with law firm Outten & Golden LLP, which is representing the plaintiffs along with Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Berstein LLP.
A spokesman for Wal-Mart would not comment on the suit's specific allegations, but said that the store's policy is to pay all employees for any hours worked and to comply with any federal and state regulations regarding worker compensation.
"This is directly contrary to our policy, and any supervisor who violates our policy is subject to disciplinary action, including termination," says Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz.
This is not the first time that Wal-Mart has been embroiled in a legal battle with workers. A number of female employees brought suit against the company for allegedly denying them management jobs because of their sex in June.