State Courts Split Over Wal-Mart Suits

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State Courts Split Over Wal-Mart Suits

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In separate cases two state courts were split yesterday on whether worker lawsuits against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. over alleged unpaid wages should be granted class action status.

A Missouri state appeals court rejected Wal-Mart's request to dismiss a class-action lawsuit by Missouri workers who claimed they were forced by company policy to work after clocking out and during meal and rest breaks.

In New York, the state Supreme Court ruled in the opposite way, denying class certification for a similar lawsuit. It said each worker's claim should be handled individually.

Wal-Mart has faced class-action lawsuits alleging unpaid work in several states, including Pennsylvania, where workers won a $78.5 million judgment last year for working off the clock and through breaks. The company is appealing that case, as well as a similar one in California. Wal-Mart settled a Colorado suit over unpaid wages for $50 million.

In an Associated Press report, a Wal-Mart spokesman said the retailer is disappointed by the Missouri ruling, but that the New York decision follows what he called "a growing number of decisions in other states."

Wal-Mart's lawyers have argued that any unpaid work was a matter of individual circumstances that must be tried on a case-by-case basis.

Missouri's Western District Court of Appeals rejected that argument and sent the case back with some procedural modifications to the Jackson County Circuit Court.