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California Judge Refuses $2.25 Walmart Unpaid Overtime Deal

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A California federal judge refuses--again-- to approve a $2.25 million unpaid overtime lawsuit deal between Walmart and 1,700 workers unless distribution method is fixed.

San Bernardino, CAAn unpaid overtime lawsuit deal between Walmart and 1,700 workers appeared to be close to settling for $2.25 million after plaintiffs were instructed by a California federal judge to fix deficiencies in the settlement's distribution method.  This second denial involves plaintiff Juan Garcia’s request for a $20,000 incentive award.

The lawsuit goes back to 2016 when Walmart worker Juan Garcia initiated a proposed class action in the Superior Court of California, County of San Bernardino. According to court documents, Garcia alleged that Walmart did not provide a second meal break when he worked more than 10 hours in a shift. As well, Garcia claimed that he would work 10-hour shifts without a second meal period and Walmart had not provided him with accurate pay stubs or all his wages upon termination.

In April 2017, the court granted Walmart’s motion to dismiss, finding that “Plaintiff provided no example where he was due a meal period but was discouraged or dissuaded from taking it or instances where Defendant obtained an invalid meal break waiver.”

Last September, Judge Hatter denied the first motion to approve the deal, as the allocation method was set up based on the number of weeks instead of hours. Hatter said that would unfairly pay part-time employees in relation to full-time employees. The workers amended the agreement and said the distribution issue was fixed, having it based on each class member's earnings during the class period. On May 13, however, Hatter found that the amended agreement had not made those changes. "Consequently, the statements in the renewed motion and class counsel's declaration as to the modification of the pro rata distribution method are in conflict with the actual language in the settlement agreement and its amendment," Judge Hatter wrote in the opinion, and reported by Law360.

As for Garcia’s incentive award, the judge said Garcia did not provide any justification for the amount, despite the “effort and risk he took in representing the class in the last eight years, including risked reputational harm for suing his former employer. Judge Hatter said that was "very speculative" because Garcia did not have any specific evidence of such harm and because he had not worked for Walmart in over eight years.

According to the workers' renewed motion, 516 out of the 1,715 total class members— 30% of the class — would receive at least $1,000 in back wages and damages, representing 67 hours of pay. The settlement class represents current and former hourly non-overtime-exempt workers at Walmart's Apple Valley, California, distribution center from May 17, 2012, through Sept. 28, 2018. The case is Garcia v. Walmart Stores Inc. et al., case number 5:16-cv-01645, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

Walmart Managers Overtime Lawsuit

In a separate unpaid overtime lawsuit filed in January 2023, thirty-five former Walmart warehouse managers in January urged a Georgia federal judge to let them move forward together in a lawsuit alleging the company denied them overtime. They asked the judge to reject a report and recommendation from a magistrate judge stating they should pursue their claims individually, because individual lawsuits would increase litigation costs, create stress and waste time not just for them but for Walmart, whose "resources would be better spent for the purpose of resolving the pending claims."

Individual lawsuits all claim the Georgia-based managers were misclassified as overtime-exempt so they wouldn't receive extra pay when they worked over 40 hours per week. Because they have the same issues and reported to the same building, the workers argued that it makes more sense to have a single suit. "There are [common] questions of fact as to misclassification, unpaid wages and liquidated damages for all plaintiffs," the managers said. "And there are questions of law as to defendant's violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for all plaintiffs."

The case is Simmons et al. v. Wal-Mart Associates Inc., case number 2:23-cv-00015, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.


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