(CN) – Wal-Mart said Tuesday that it would pay at least $352 million to settle 63 employment lawsuits across the country accusing it of violating labor laws, including forcing workers to work off the clock. Hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart workers would get payments of a few hundred to a few thousand dollars apiece.
The Benton, Ark.-based company, which employs 1.4 million workers, tried to paint the settlement as a resolution of problems caused by local managers, which already have been addressed. Its payments will be capped at $640 million, the company told Reuters news service.
But union organizers claimed it as a victory, and viewed it as just another move to stave off unionization at the world’s largest retailer.
In early December, Wal-Mart announced a $54.3 million settlement with workers in Minnesota who were denied breaks and forced to work off the clock.
Wal-Mart has appealed a 2005 verdict in California in which it was ordered to pay workers $172 million; and a $78 million jury judgment to workers in a 2006 Pennsylvania case, which a judge has increased to $188 million.
Still pending against Wal-Mart, and unsettled, is a sex discrimination lawsuit, whose plaintiffs seek billions of dollars in damages.
Wal-Mart said it would write off $250 million in this quarter’s earnings – 6 cents a share – to underwrite the settlements, The New York Times reported.