- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2008

BENTONVILLE, Ark. | Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said Tuesday it will pay between $352 million and $640 million to settle 63 wage- and hour-abuse lawsuits against the company.

The discount retailer, which has more than 1.4 million employees, said the total amount depends on the number of claims submitted. Each of the settlements must be approved by a trial court.

Wal-Mart, one of the few retailers doing well in a dismal holiday season, said it would take an after-tax charge to continuing operations of about $250 million, or about 6 cents per share, in its fiscal fourth quarter.

The company said many of the lawsuits were filed years ago, and the allegations do not reflect the company it is today.

“Our policy is to pay associates for every hour worked and to provide rest and meal breaks,” said Tom Mars, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president and general counsel.

As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart agrees to continue to use electronic systems and other measures to ensure compliance with policies and law.

Last year, Wal-Mart said it would pay more than $33 million in back wages to thousands of employees after turning itself in to the Labor Department for paying too little in overtime over the past five years. A judge in Pennsylvania also ruled last year that workers there who previously won a $78.5 million class-action award for working off the clock will share an additional $62.3 million in damages.

Shares in Wal-Mart, which rose 70 cents to close at $55.29 before the settlement was announced, gained another penny in after-hours trading.

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