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Wal-Mart Workers Win $62 Million

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania who previously won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will receive an additional $62.3 million in damages, a judge ruled Wednesday.

About 125,000 people will receive an additional $500 because of a delay in compensation.

"The law in its majesty applies equally to highly paid executives and minimum wage clerks," Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein wrote.

"Just as highly paid executives' promised equity interests or put options or percentage of sale proceeds are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements, so too the monetary equivalents of 'paid break' time cashiers and other employees were prohibited from taking are protected fringe benefits and wage supplements," Bernstein wrote.

A Philadelphia jury last year awarded the workers the exact amount they had sought, rejecting Wal-Mart's claim that some people chose to work through breaks or that the few minutes of occasional extra work were insignificant.

Damages awarded Wednesday come from a Pennsylvania law that says a company can be penalized when it withholds pay for more than 30 days without cause.

"By this statute the Legislature created significant financial incentives for employers to pay workers all the money they've earned by their hard work," Bernstein wrote.

Similar suits charging that Wal-Mart violated state wage laws are in play across the country.

A California trial ended with a $172 million verdict that Wal-Mart is appealing, while the Bentonville, Ark.-based company settled a Colorado suit for $50 million.

A trial opened last week in Minnesota while suits are pending in New Jersey and several other states.

The Pennsylvania class-action suit involves current and former employees who worked at Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs from March 1998 through May 2006.

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