Class Certification Denied In Wal-Mart Case

— The court overseeing multidistrict litigation over Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s wage-and-hour practices denied a bid to certify classes of employees from four states, writing that resolving the plaintiffs’ claims would necessitate particularized inquiries into their respective allegations.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Philip M. Pro signed off on a 35-page order denying a motion to certify classes in four “first phase” cases that would have covered workers from Alaska, Nevada, Delaware and South Dakota.

The court said it wasn’t persuaded that common issues predominated over questions affecting individual plaintiffs.

The proposed class would have been made up of current and former hourly workers for Wal-Mart or subsidiary Sam’s West Inc. from 1989 to the present.

The litigation, consolidated in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, centers on allegations that the defendants systematically failed to pay hourly employees for all the time they worked.

Wal-Mart altered employees’ time records by deleting overtime hours and making it look as if workers took breaks when they actually didn’t, the plaintiffs say.

Judge Pro held that the class definition “fails because it cannot be ascertained through any objective criteria who would be a class member.” Figuring out who would qualify for the class would depend on resolving on the merits to determine which plaintiffs hadn’t been compensated, Judge Pro said.

Class treatment isn’t superior in this matter because the actions at issue will amount to “mini trials” for each plaintiff and each allegation of time shaving, Judge Pro said.

The plaintiffs said class certification was appropriate because Wal-Mart’s allegedly unlawful practices stem from the company’s centralized strategy and policies, which extend to all the defendants’ stores across the nation.

Failing to grant class certification will reward Wal-Mart for its “misconduct” and mean that the loss sustained by the plaintiffs will never be restored, according to the class certification memorandum the plaintiffs filed in November 2006.

Wal-Mart contended that it has lawful policies in place concerning overtime and other labor issues and that the complaints concern deviations from those policies by particular store managers in particular instances.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, employs more than 1.4 million people in the U.S., according to a corporate fact sheet available on its Web site.

A Wal-Mart spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the decision Monday.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs could also not be immediately reached.

Furth Lehmann & Grant LLP and Bonsignore & Brewer were co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in their class certification bid.

Greenberg Traurig LLP and Santoro Driggs Walch Kearney Johnson & Thompson represented Wal-Mart in in opposition to the class certification motion.

The case is MDL 1735, In Re: Wal-Mart Wage & Hour Employment Practices Litigation, lead case number 06-225 in the U.S. District Court for the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada.

For a reprint of this article, please contact [email protected].

The information provided by is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
The views and opinions expressed on the site do not necessarily represent those of