Wal-Mart Fined $172 Million Over Meal Breaks
A California jury has fined Wal-Mart $172 million for not ensuring that its workers ate lunch.
A California jury on Thursday ordered Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, to pay $172 million in damages for failing to provide meal breaks to nearly 116,000 hourly workers as required under state law.
California law requires that employers provide a meal break of 30 minutes for every five hours on the clock, Ms. Grant said. If the break is shorter than that, provided late or not at all, the employer must pay an hour’s pay, she said.
“Wal-Mart has since taken steps to ensure all associates receive their meal periods, including adopting new technology that sends alerts to cashiers when it is time for their meal breaks,” the statement read. “The system will automatically shut down registers if the cashier does not respond.”
Wal-Mart, like any other company, should be required to comply with the law. But, my word, what a stupid law this is. What if a worker would prefer to work through his break and go home early? Or what if the store is incredibly busy and delaying the lunch break a few minutes would be more efficient?
I’m not an hourly worker and have never had a job, aside from attendance at military schools, where my lunch break was monitored by the boss. But I eat lunch more than five hours after getting on the job most days. Some days, I’m too busy to eat lunch until late in the afternoon, if at all. Do cashiers get hungrier than knowledge workers? (I’ve certainly stood on my feet for more than five hours at a time, both as an Army officer and as a college professor, so it’s not that.)
Now, if Wal-Mart is systematically forcing people to work through their lunch breaks and not paying them for the missed time–or even denying people the right to eat or take a restroom break on some systematic basis–that’s a different matter. But the facts presented in the article don’t give the impression that Wal-Mart did anything evil here other than failing to comply with a seemingly silly law.