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News | Dec 16, 2014

PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS JURY VERDICT IN FAVOR OF PENNSYLVANIA WAL-MART EMPLOYEES ASSERTING UNPAID WAGE CLAIMS FOR MISSED BREAKS AND WORKING OFF-THE-CLOCK

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an important decision concerning Pennsylvania employees’ ability to assert wage and hour claims under state law.  In Braun et al., v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the verdict of a Philadelphia county jury in favor of Pennsylvania Wal-Mart employees who were asserting claims for missed meal breaks and off-the-clock work.  The case was brought as a class action.

The Supreme Court spent the majority of its opinion rejecting Wal-Mart’s argument that it had been subject to a “trial by formula” that denied Wal-Mart its due process rights in violation of Pennsylvania law.  In doing so, the Court affirmed the $151 million verdict against Wal-Mart and in favor of the workers.

While the Supreme Court did not directly address the trial court’s certification of this case as a class action, it did make some very important observations about the certification of wage and hour claims under Pennsylvania law.  For example:

  • -“Wal-Mart’s allegation that both courts below disregarded individualized issues does not prove misapplication of procedural requirements because the existence of distinguishing individual facts among class members is not fatal to certification.  Appellees here were not required to prove that the claims of all class members were identical. Class members may assert a single common complaint even if they have not all suffered actual injury, and demonstrating that all class members are subject to the same harm will suffice.”  Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, 2014 Pa. LEXIS 3324, *17 n.8 (Pa. Dec. 15, 2014) (internal citations omitted);
  • -“[A]s one federal district court has noted, one takeaway from the [U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Dukes and Behrend] in this area is that ‘the propriety of class certification in wage and hour cases that involve recordkeeping violations should be assessed in light of the relaxed burden of proving damages.’”  Id. at *27;
  • -“We are persuaded by the observation of the federal district court in Jackson v. Bloomberg, 298 F.R.D. 152, 168 (S.D.N.Y. 2014), which declined to read into Behrend ‘a principle that would fundamentally undermine the use of the class action vehicle in the wage-and-hour context.’  In addition, we subscribe to what appears to be the prevailing view that Dukes does not bar class actions in wage and hour cases.”  Id. at *29 n.11 (internal citations omitted).

Winebrake & Santillo has filed several class action lawsuits against large Pennsylvania employers alleging similar off-the-clock claims that were at issue in Braun v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.  If you or one of your co-workers would like a free and totally confidential consultation with one of our attorneys, feel free to contact us at 215-884-2491.  We would be happy to speak with you.

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