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Quick Hits: Waging War On Wal-Mart

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Brief scrutiny of today's headlines

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Wal-Mart (WMT) -- a company that boasts "always low" prices -- may soon pay a very high price for cutting the wrong corners.

Had the retail giant not attempted to slash overhead by requiring employees to work off the clock and by denying them contractual rights, it might not be facing over $2 billion in fines - $1,000 for each of the more than 2 million violations cited in a Minnesota judge's ruling against the megabrand on Monday.

Wal-Mart also violated state labor laws when it denied workers tens of thousands of breaks to which they were contractually entitled, often going so far as to deduct pay from workers who returned even one minute late from their 15-minute breaks.

To be fair, the judge found that Wal-Mart did not routinely force cashiers and stock personnel to work off the clock during their regular shifts.

On October 20, a jury will determine final punitive damages; for now, the judge has ordered Wal-Mart to pay $6.5 million to 56,000 employees.

The Minnesota ruling comes on the heels of similar verdicts in California and Pennsylvania, which also found Wal-Mart guilty of denying workers breaks and wages to which they were entitled; $172 million and $188 million in damages were respectively awarded in those cases. There are more than 70 such lawsuits pending nationwide.

It's hard to understand why there's such homogeneity -- in terms of an inclination to deny basic workers' rights -- among Wal-Mart managers. Weren't these guys once rocking the same blue polos and khakis as their underpaid, meal-and-bathroom-break-deprived workers?

And when will they get wise to the fact that their tired and hungry employees are no longer keeping quiet?

For more on Wal-Mart, check out Hoofy and Boo's always astute report:
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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