Ruling in Wal-Mart Pharmacy Overtime Case Reversed

DENVER -- A three judge panel in the 10th Circuit federal appeals court here has overturned a 1999 ruling that Wal-Mart broke labor laws by not compensating its pharmacists for overtime work, according to published reports. The reversal of the ruling virtually guarantees a long trial, unless the parties reach a settlement.

U.S. District Judge Zita Weinshienk ruled in 1999 that Wal-Mart violated labor laws by classifying pharmacists as salaried workers, although the company treated pharmacists as hourly workers by reducing their shifts and docking their pay during slow periods. "Businesses cannot cut hours for their own convenience and still maintain the employees are salaried," Weinshienk wrote in her ruling, which would have required Wal-Mart to pay back wages, including interest, in excess of $100 million. In general, employers are required by law to pay time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 a week.

"The plaintiffs have not established incontrovertibly that Wal-Mart changed salaries so often that its full-time pharmacists essentially were paid an hourly wage," the appeals court found.

The reversal also applies to a second related class action filed on behalf of hundreds of current and former Wal-Mart pharmacists, which alleges that the retailer forced them to work 12-hour days without lunch or rest breaks.

The original complaint, which was brought in 1995 by four Colorado pharmacists, claimed that employees had to spend "off the clock" hours doing paperwork, taking inventory, and filing insurance forms, and that work weeks were typically 60 hours instead of the 40 noted on their schedules.
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