Wal-Mart’s not only the world’s largest retailer, but also a magnet for employee complaints about off-the-clock work. It faces lawsuits in more than 30 states.
Wal-Mart says its deep pockets have made it an attractive target. Plaintiffs’ lawyers counter that off-the-clock work is endemic at Wal-Mart because of the company’s emphasis on keeping its costs low.
Wal-Mart settled one case involving 69,000 workers in Colorado for $50 million four years ago. In Oregon, a federal jury found in 2002 that the company had required off-the-clock work, but the court awarded back pay to only 83 workers.
Wal-Mart has changed some practices. The computer system in its stores no longer allows a cashier who clocks out to continue ringing up customers.
In orientation, employees are told not to work off the clock, and company memos direct managers not to allow such work.
“We continually reiterate our position that associates are to be paid for every minute they work,” said Gus Whitcomb, a Wal-Mart spokesman.
But some employees say their managers still demand off-the-clock work. Aaron Payne, who earned $6.25 an hour working in the sporting goods department of a Wal-Mart in Camden, S.C., said the assistant manager made him work many hours last summer without pay.
“I’d be clocking out, and he’d point out all this stuff, saying, ‘This isn’t done, and if you leave before this is done, you won’t have a job Monday morning,’ ” said Mr. Payne, an Army veteran who served in Iraq. “It happened almost every night. I’d usually have to stay one and a half or two extra hours.”