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An audit by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of about 25,000 employees uncovered thousands of labor violations, including minors working during school hours and workers not taking breaks or lunches. The company’s July 2000 audit 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. In a statement Tuesday, 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 has emerged in lawsuits against the company. The audit, obtained by The New York Times, covered employee records at 128 Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company has 1.2 million domestic employees. Wal-Mart said its auditor looked at numbers alone and did not examine employees’ circumstances. “The audit erroneously assumed that each time an associate failed to clock in or out … it was because the associate missed a meal break or rest break,” the company said. “In some cases, associates modified their schedules to meet a personal need, such as working through lunch in order to leave early that day,” the statement said. Company officials declined interview requests Tuesday. James Finberg, an attorney who represents Wal-Mart employees seeking class-action status in New York and Washington state on grounds the company didn’t pay for all hours worked, said the audit shows Wal-Mart broke its own rules. “The policy book says the right things, but the pattern and practice is clear — managers tell people to do the work, no matter how long it takes, and they tell them they’re not going to pay them overtime,” Finberg said. Wal-Mart said its practices have changed since the 2000 audit. “We have been aggressive in implementing new processes to ensure that associates are paid for every minute they work, and receive breaks and meals as scheduled,” the company said in its statement. “We also have procedures to ensure that employment and work schedules of minors at Wal-Mart are in strict compliance with the law.” Labor lawsuits against the world’s largest retailer are pending in 40 states, with claims granted class action status in California, Indiana, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Also Tuesday, a damages trial got under way in Oregon in a lawsuit in which a jury has found that Wal-Mart did not fully pay its workers in that state.

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