Recently, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court upheld a jury verdict of $187.6 million against retail giant, Walmart, Inc. in part for denying employee’s meal and rest periods as promised in their employee handbooks. Walmart’s violation regarding breaks and meal periods was not statutory but rather contractual.
Pennsylvania law does not require meal breaks or rest breaks to employees over 18 years of age. However, Walmart’s employee handbook stated that hourly employees who work between three and six hours per shift would be given one 15-minute paid rest period and employees working more than six hours per shift would be given two 15 minute paid rest periods. The handbook further stated that if the employees were interrupted during their lunch break they would be paid in full for the break and given an additional rest period, which employees alleged did not occur.
Employees filed a class action lawsuit against Walmart claiming they were not paid for rest periods and meal periods, as well as off the clock work in violation of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act and in breach of contract. The court ruled that Walmart’s handbook policies pertaining to meal and rest periods were “unilateral contracts” with employees that Walmart breached. Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, No. 3373 EDA 2007 (June 10, 2011).
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