Save Money. Live Better. That is Walmart’s trademark published on this week’s Walmart newspaper advertisement circular. Walmart, unfortunately, provides many opportunities for learning about employment law. I pulled this case, TWANDA D. BURKS et al v. WAL-MART STORES, INC. et al, because it provides many useful lessons about how not to save money by not paying wages.
This is a class action involving temporary Walmart workers. First note that temporary workers, even though not directly employed by Walmart, sued Walmart along with the employment agencies. The workers were hired by 3 separate temporary employment agencies. It should not be assumed that by securing employees via an employment agency that you can evade employment laws. The definition of the employer and purview of employment laws cast a broad net.
In their complaint, the workers claimed that they were not paid wages for time worked. The workers were required to show up to work 15 minutes early and they were not paid for that 15 min. The workers were required to attend safety training. The workers were not paid for attending the training. Work under the Federal Wage and Hour Laws is defined as suffered or permitted. The workers suffered through the training. The workers suffered through traffic and other perils to arrive at work 15 minutes early. It’s work. The workers must be paid wages. A caution should be taken when making rules and setting requirements as to whether wages need to be paid.
In the 36 page complaint, the workers also claimed a plethora of state law claims. Walmart had agreed to pay the workers a pay differential hourly rate for non-traditional hours worked. The Federal Wage and Hour laws only require the payment of minimum wage and overtime. State laws, however, carry higher mandates. In Illinois, the employer, Walmart, agreed to pay an established wage. That wage must be paid. Walmart, as alleged by the workers, promised to pay a set wage and paid wages lower than promised in violation of state law. In another state law claim, the workers claimed that Walmart and the other defendants violated the Illinois 4 hour minimum pay law. Walmart and the other defendants, under another Illinois state law, failed to provide the employment notice required to be given to temporary workers.
There are other claims, federal and state law based. I just gave a sampling of the claims as an illustration. Here are some words of wisdom to help you live better:
Lessons from the court: Unless you are willing to defend yourself against a class of workers and pay your attorney and their attorney, consult state and federal wage and hour laws often. Remember that wage and hour claims are ripe for class action and the law expressly provides for attorney fees.