The AP reports on yet another instance of Wal-Mart paying big bucks to its employees for breaking the law:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay more than $33 million in back wages to thousands of employees after turning itself in to the Labor Department for paying too little in overtime, according to an agreement announced Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department.
Wal-Mart said the department’s review of its overtime calculations also found it had overpaid about 215,000 hourly workers during the last five years. The company said it will not seek to recover any overpayments.
Turning itself in? What does that mean?:
Steven Mandel, associate solicitor in the Labor Department’s Fair Labor Standards Division, said the case â€” involving nearly 87,000 employees â€” resulted from Wal-Mart coming to the department in early 2005 and asking for a review of its overtime calculations. “They had some concern that some of the practices were not in compliance” with federal wage laws, he told a conference call for reporters “It’s not particularly unusual for an employer to come to us and talk to us about potential payroll violations,” Mandel said.
Gee, you’d think it might have something to do with all those employees suing Wal-Mart for denying them breaks and overtime, but the AP hasn’t told you that. Yet while Wal-Mart has paid these kinds of multi-million dollar settlements before, I think what makes this one special is the pseudo-apology. From the Wal-Mart press release on this:
“We want our associates to know that the situation has been fixed, that overtime calculations now are being done correctly, and that we’ve added safeguards to our payroll processes to make sure these types of errors don’t happen again,” said Sue Oliver, senior vice president of the People Division at Wal-Mart. “The overtime issues relate to our payroll processes at the Home Office rather than any individual’s actions at our stores or clubs.”
What are those safeguards exactly? You gotta imagine they’re talking about the company’s new computer system. You remember, the one they’re using to drive out workers who have families or other part-time jobs. As one Wal-Flack explained during an early test, “Wal-Mart associates who offer broader availability are likely to get more hours.” In short, they’re solving the overtime crisis by making everybody part-time. Talk about adding insult to injury!
But this scheduling by computer stuff is the big new thing, right? Everybody’s doing it. Well, yes and know. Today’s Wall Street Journal (subs. required) explains better than I could exactly why Wal-Mart’s version of “flexible scheduling” is different than most everybody else’s:
While some Wal-Mart workers say they like the system, the bottom line is that Wal-Mart’s purpose is to improve customer service and cut costs. Many workers will get less control over their time, because the human factor — a store manager who might be moved by a worker’s pleas for personal or family time — plays a diminished role. And workers must make sacrifices to gain a measure of control, agreeing to work weekends and nights to get first dibs on the schedules they want.
And while the WSJ won’t say it, the fact that Wal-Mart has so many other labor rights violations notched on its belt clearly demonstrates that you can’t trust them to act in their employees’ best interests under any circumstances. If they think workers are going to accept this apology with all that water under the bridge, the company is even more tone-deaf than I thought.
Wal-Mart: today’s (and everyday’s) worst employer in the world.
UPDATE: Our pal Someone offers a much kinder interpretation of these same events here.