PRESS RELEASE: FEBRUARY 14, 2006

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Former Wal-Mart Worker Files Proposed Class-action Lawsuit

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A former Salt Lake City Wal-Mart employee has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit contending the company systematically shortchanged hourly employees.

The federal court lawsuit by Norma Jean Williams, who lives in Wyoming, is similar to more than 40 other lawsuits across the country.

"Wal-Mart actually stole money from its own employees and used that money to gain a competitive advantage over its competition," said Missouri attorney R. Deryl Edwards Jr., who is representing Williams. "And this didn't just happen in Utah. It happened all over."

The company employs about 5,000 workers at 24 retail stores and distribution centers in Utah.

Wal-Mart spokesman Kevin Thornton said it is the company's policy to pay its hourly workers for every minute that they work and anyone aware of that not happening is obligated to report it to upper management.

"Any manager who requires or tolerates off-the-clock work or violates any company policy or employment law will be disciplined, and possibly fired," he said.

Williams' lawsuit contends that Wal-Mart altered employee records to make it appear they worked fewer hours than they actually were on the job.

The company also allegedly deleted overtime hours and doctored time records to make it appear as if employees were taking meal periods when they were working.

Wal-Mart's hourly employees could not have been aware of the such practices because the company concealed the information from them, the lawsuit contends.

It argues that the information came to light only after a New York Times article about the employee time records in 2004.

With so many similar lawsuits pending, Edwards said there is a good chance the federal courts might consolidate the actions and place them under the jurisdiction of a single judge.

Williams' lawsuit does not request a specific sum for damages, but it does ask that employees be reimbursed and that Wal-Mart be compelled to disgorge all profits obtained from the alleged wrongful withholding of compensation earned by its Utah workers.

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