October 14, 2006 in Business

Wal-Mart must pay for breaking labor laws

The Spokesman-Review
 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, must pay at least $78.5 million for violating Pennsylvania labor laws by forcing employees to work through rest breaks and off the clock, a jury found Friday.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Donovan will also seek another $62 million in damages because the jury found that Wal-Mart acted in bad faith. Common Pleas Judge Mark Bernstein is expected to rule on that issue in the next few weeks.

The jury awarded the exact amount the plaintiffs sought, rejecting Wal-Mart’s claim that some employees chose to work through breaks and that the loss of a few minutes’ pay here or there was insignificant.

“It should send a message to corporate America that you can’t say one thing and do another … and that you should put people ahead of profits,” Donovan said.

Payments to each plaintiff are expected to range from about $50 to a few thousand dollars, depending on how long they worked for the company, Donovan said. Wal-Mart must pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees on top of the award.

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Tech gadgets will be hot gifts, survey says

Portable music players, cell phones and digital cameras are poised to be in hot demand this holiday season, according to a market survey that also projects a 27 percent boost in spending on electronics gifts.

Digital cameras topped the list as the most popular gizmo consumers intend to give this year, followed by a DVD player or recorder. But for the second year in a row, the most wished-for gadget – among adults and teens – was a portable digital music player.

The Consumer Electronics Association was to announce its annual holiday survey Monday.

BRUSSELS, Belgium

Microsoft agrees to changes in Vista

Microsoft Corp. is making several key changes to its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system in an attempt to soothe European antitrust worries, while keeping its worldwide distribution plans on schedule.

Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said Friday the company agreed to change how people can set their preferred search service if they upgrade to Microsoft’s new Internet Explorer browser. The Redmond, Wash., company also has tweaked Vista’s security system to address concerns that the system was favoring Microsoft’s products over competing security offerings.

In addition, the company plans to have an international standards organization review a controversial new file format that will be included in Windows and the company’s Office business suite. Smith said that was a step toward making the format available for other companies to license.

NEW YORK

Air America files for bankruptcy

Air America Radio filed for bankruptcy reorganization Friday, in the latest patch of turbulence to befall the liberal talk radio network that launched two years ago headlined by comedian and author Al Franken.

The network will continue to operate with funding from its investor group, led by RealNetworks Inc. CEO Robert Glaser, who owns 36.7 percent of the company, and two other former board members.

The company also named a new CEO Friday, Scott Elberg, a radio executive who joined the company in May 2005.

Air America had dismissed rumors just one month ago that it was planning to file for bankruptcy protection. Spokeswoman Jaime Horn said Friday the filing became necessary only recently after negotiations with a creditor broke down.

Compiled from wire reports


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