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Wal-Mart to pay $33m in wage case

Labor Department deal covers calculation errors

NEW YORK -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest US private employer, will pay $33 million in back wages plus interest under an agreement with the Labor Department.

The accord covers 86,680 hourly and salaried employees who worked at the company during the past five years, the Labor Department said yesterday. The back pay relates to how Wal-Mart calculated overtime pay at its Bentonville, Ark. -based headquarters.

The world's largest retailer brought the errors to the Labor Department's attention and agreed to correct them, the government and company said. Wal-Mart faces about 70 lawsuits over disputed pay. Since 2005, juries in California and Pennsylvania have awarded $251 million to its workers for missed breaks and hours.

The kind of violations cited in yesterday's settlement "are ones that we frequently see," Steven Mandel, an associate solicitor in the department, said. While common, "these are serious violations," he said.

"The issue has been resolved," Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said. The agreement with the US Labor Department involved no fines or penalties.

The accord doesn't affect any of the other cases on disputed pay, Mandel said.

Separately, California, which has the ability to impose penalties, filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart yesterday seeking payment for the miscalculated overtime wages.

Shares of Wal-Mart fell 46 cents to $48.15. The stock dropped 1.3 percent in 2006, the third consecutive annual decline.