- - Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WASHINGTON,  June 2, 2013 — Last month Fortune 500 announced its rankings for the world’s richest businesses and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. was number one on the list with $444 billion in revenue in 2012. For 2011, Wal-Mart was number two. This corporate giant has 2.2 million employees in 8,500 stores around the world.  Wal-Mart has been at or near the top for many years.

Forget for a moment its financial prowess. Wal-Mart is the poster child for despicable behavior. Thousands of civil lawsuits are filed every year against Wal-Mart and it seems there are always criminal wrongdoings afoot. 

On the civil side, one such claim was recently concluded in Stafford County, Va. Earlier this year, a Wal-Mart customer won a verdict against Wal-Mart for $11,250,000.00. The customer slipped and fell on a wet floor, fracturing numerous bones in his back, elbow and hand. He further injured a shoulder rotator cuff; in all, the gentleman was left with permanent severe pain and disability.

The reason for the wet floor was an employee left the area after mopping it to get a warning cone. Training employees is not one of Wal-Mart’s strongest achievements.

Among Plaintiff’s attorneys, it is well known that it rarely settles customers’ claims for injuries, even in cases of overwhelming liability, because it can afford to fight and make the victim pay heavily for the costs of the litigation.

Beyond its customers, Wal-Mart employees seemingly are constantly suing Wal-Mart for issues ranging from religious, sex and pay discrimination to unsafe and unreasonable working conditions.

Wal-Mart won a major victory in 2011 in the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in United States history. The Supreme Court dismissed a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart filed by 1.5 million female employees, not because the claims had no merit, but because of the Court’s interpretation of what was required to constitute a “class.” 

Class action lawsuits typically go forward when all of the plaintiffs present similar factual claims, and the law governing those claims present similar legal issues. There is considerable value in terms of a court’s time and resources with the class action model. Plaintiffs like class actions because there are reduced costs and there is the “strength in numbers” concept. Alternatively, defendants seek to avoid class action claims as they believe they can better crush the little guys one by one.

In this case, in a 5 to 4 opinion, the Supremes reversed a lower court decision allowing the female workers to sue for back pay and punitive damages that could have totaled billions of dollars. The majority felt 1.5 million women could not have factual cases similar enough to warrant a class action.

After the defeat, the five women in that case  who alleged sex discrimination went to court again and filed suit in California. 

Another female Wal-Mart employee in Canada, a former assistant manager, was awarded $1.49 million after suing for mistreatment in the workplace.

A class action lawsuit was filed last month in California when a judge certified a class of 10,000 employees claiming it illegally refused to provide suitable seating for disabled cashiers.

Really? Wal-Mart wouldn’t provide adequate seats for its disabled cashiers? Wal-Mart has not denied that it will not provide seating. It claims that cashiers need to be able to move around to look inside carts, stock shelves, and greet customers.

Taking that thought to its logical conclusion, Wal-Mart is saying that if its cashiers are allowed to sit down, they will then lose their ability to get up again. Ridiculous argument.

Wal-Mart employees across the country have gone on a prolonged strike. In several areas of the country last week, employees have walked off the job to protest its refusal to improve working conditions.

Wal-Mart is beyond despicable with its employees. It has gone on the offensive and it has actually filed lawsuits against groups that have dared to protest against working conditions and employment policies.

One suit against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union was filed in March, and another was filed last month against a group called OURWal-Mart. Wal-Mart is asking for injunctions to stop protest activities from happening in and around its stores and at the upcoming shareholders’ meetings. Wal-Mart has not addressed the issues. They simply want legal help in quieting the protestors. 

In addition to the lawsuits, Wal-Mart has allegedly illegally retaliated against these employees and has fired many of them, saying it was closing a Canadian store for “economic” reasons when employees there successfully unionized.

A civil lawsuit was filed against Wal-Mart in April, 2013 and concerns the network of retail stores Wal-Mart owns in Mexico and Central America. The suit alleges Wal-Mart was involved in a bribery scheme, and in that connection violated federal securities laws by issuing materially false and misleading statements regarding its business practices. The result, as alleged, is that Wal-Mart de Mexico stock prices traded at artificially inflated prices.

The legal onslaught is staggering. Last month, the Department of Labor announced that Wal-Mart agreed to pay $4.83 million to employees for back wages and damages for illegally denied overtime. More than 4,000 vision center managers and asset protection coordinators will receive money from the settlement.

Legal entanglement for Wal-Mart has not been limited to civil matters. It is no stranger to allegations of criminal behavior, having paid staggering amounts of money in criminal fines. 

The Mexican matter has criminal repercussions, as both the Department of Justice and Congress are investigating whether Wal-Mart systematically bribed Mexican officials in order to obtain permits for new stores.

Last week Wal-Mart agreed to pay nearly $81.63 million to the federal government as it pleaded guilty to charges that a few years ago it regularly and improperly discarded hazardous waste including bleach and fertilizer. The acts involved included throwing out fertilizers and pesticides in trash containers, rather than through a certified hauler, and improperly handling pesticides that were returned by customers.

These crimes occurred in California and Missouri, where Wal-Mart previously paid those states $27.6 million and $1.25 million, respectively.

In February, 2012, Wal-Mart was fined $365,000 for violations in a New York store, including obstructing exits, lack of training and a lack of eye and facial protection for hazardous chemical workers.

There are many, many more civil and criminal matters finding Wal-Mart on the wrong side. A listing here would impossibly long.

Sam Walton built an amazing financial empire. It is sad he did so on top of the minds and bodies of the “little” people who helped him and on those who patronize him.

A nationwide boycott will never occur, because the prices are so low.

Go out and build your business. Be wildly profitable.  But remember money is not the only measure of success.

Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.

He is also available to speak to your group on numerous legal topics.  Paul is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show.

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