Nearly 10 years ago, Delores Killingsworth Barber, then 25 and an employee at a Roosevelt Boulevard Walmart, took the witness stand in a Philadelphia courtroom and told a judge and jury that the retail giant was "stealing our time."
It got worse during the holidays, when, she testified, workers were told to "do whatever it takes to get it done, and if that meant missing your break, that's what had to be done."
Many years and boxes of legal documents later, the workers should be paid for those missed breaks.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court said it would not take up a lost-wages case involving 186,000 current and former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employees, clearing the way for the workers, all from Pennsylvania, and their lawyers to receive $187 million in the class-action suit.
With interest, the employees, who had been owed $140 million of the $187 million, will now split $224 million, said their attorney, Michael D. Donovan of Donovan Litigation Group in Berwyn.
"Wage theft will not be tolerated, and class actions are an optimal way for large numbers of workers to recover wages stolen by their employers," Donovan said Monday.
Wal-Mart spokesman Randy Hargrove said: "We are disappointed the Supreme Court decided not to review our case. While we continue to believe these claims should not be bundled together in a class-action lawsuit, we respect the court's decision."
The case began in 2002, when Michelle Braun, working at the Walmart store in Franklin Mills, joined other colleagues in filing a wage-and-hour lawsuit against the retailer.
Wal-Mart appealed, saying that the class should not have been certified and that each of the 186,000 workers should have had to testify individually about his or her particular circumstances.
Pennsylvania's Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict in December 2014, saying that Wal-Mart's own records provided the necessary evidence.
Hargrove said that over the last decade, Wal-Mart "has taken additional steps, including enhancing our time-keeping systems. We want to make sure we pay employees for every hour worked and provide paid meal and rest breaks."
Supreme Court refuses to hear Wal-Mart case; Pa. workers owed $224M (external - login to view)