Wal-Mart to Pay Over $6 Million for Meal Break Violations

On April 12, 2019, a federal district court jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of a class of workers against retail behemoth Wal-Mart, awarding over $6 million in damages. Following a week-long trial, the jury found that Wal-Mart had failed to provide meal periods to the class of approximately 5,000 employees working at a fulfillment center in Chino, California by requiring them to undergo an off-the-clock security check upon exiting the work-site.

 The jury found that Wal-Mart had failed in its obligation to relieve its employees of all duty, relinquish control over their activities, and permit them a reasonable opportunity to take an uninterrupted 30-minute break, without impeding or discouraging them from doing so. 

Although the jury disagreed with Plaintiffs’ second claim that Wal-Mart had improperly implemented an alternative workweek schedule, Wal-Mart nevertheless corrected its overtime practice prior to trial. While Wal-Mart had previously paid these employees for overtime only after 10 hours in a day, the company now pays all employees at the Chino fulfillment center overtime after 8 hours in a day in accordance with California law.

During closing arguments, the workers’ attorney Kenneth H. Yoon of Yoon Law, APC, argued, “If an employee wants to leave the facility, Wal-Mart requires them to jump through hoops, whether it be dealing with a security check, limiting the clothing that they wear, minimizing the bags they carry, relinquishing the rights to bring a cell phone into the facility. Wal-Mart has placed the onus on its employees to plow through Wal-Mart's obstacles to leave the building. This is impermissible.”

The jury agreed. Its verdict sends a clear message to all employers that they may not require employees to engage in any activity that benefits the employer during meal periods. In doing so, the employer impedes or discourages the meal period such that no meal period was provided.

Following the trial, Mr. Yoon said: “We are pleased with the verdict and Wal-Mart’s change in its overtime practice. We hope the juror’s message to Wal-Mart serves as a reminder to all employers that an employee’s break time is their own personal time.”

Class Representatives were Chelsea Hamilton and Alyssa Hernandez.

Lead trial counsel was Los Angeles class action lawyer Kenneth Yoon of Yoon Law, APC.

Second chair trial counsel were G. Samuel Cleaver of Law Offices of G. Samuel Cleaver, Stephanie E. Yasuda of Yoon Law, APC, and Brian G. Lee of Yoon Law, APC.

Plaintiffs were also represented by Brian J. Mankin and Peter Carlson of Fernandez & Lauby LLP.

The case is entitled Chelsea Hamilton et al.  v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. et al (Case No. 5:17-cv-01415-AB-KK).

Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Yoon Law, APC is a law firm specializing in protecting the rights of employees who have been wronged by their employers.