Wal-Mart Downplays Findings of Audit Showing Labor Violations

January 13, 2004 - Posted at 4:05 p.m. CDT

BENTONVILLE, AR - A lawyer representating Wal-Mart workers suing the giant retailer said today the company's response to an internal document showing thousands of labor violations points to a larger problem within the company.

The audit of 25,000 employees performed by Wal-Mart in July 2000 detailed 1,371 violations of child-labor laws, including minors working too late, too many hours in a day or during school hours.  On more than 60,000 occasions, workers missed breaks and on 16,000 they skipped meal times, in violation of most state labor regulations.

The company has 1.2 million domestic employees.

Wal-Mart said the audit was not a valid study and should not be taken at face value.  The document was distributed to top Wal-Mart executives and emerged in lawsuits against the company.  The New York Times obtained the audit, which polled employee records at 128 Wal-Mart stores across the country.

The company said its auditor looked at numbers alone and not the circumstance of the employees.  Wal-Mart said its practices have changed since the 2000 audit.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)