By and  on December 4, 2009

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. continued its recent effort to reconcile outstanding wage-and-hour lawsuits Wednesday when it agreed to a $40 million settlement with up to 87,500 current and former employees in Massachusetts.

The deal, filed in Middlesex Superior Court, ends a class action suit brought in 2001. Employees had accused the world’s largest retailer of forcing them to work off the clock by refusing breaks and controlling time cards, among other methods.

The agreement is the latest in a string of similar deals struck by the Bentonville, Ark.-based company since it said last year that it would pay up to $640 million to end 63 such suits in courts across the country. Last month, a federal judge in Nevada signed off on a settlement that affected up to 3.2 million employees of the retail giant.

Robert Bonsignore, a lead counsel in two actions in the Massachusetts case, said the settlement is the largest for a wage-and-hour action in the state’s history. Employees who worked for Wal-Mart in the state between August 1995 and the settlement date will receive between $400 and $2,500, the attorney’s firm said. The deal also calls for Wal-Mart to take measures to ensure that future hourly wage violations do not occur.

“In addition to the guaranteed $40 million, there is real ongoing value because of the injunctive relief,” Bonsignore said.

Wal-Mart did not return a call seeking comment Thursday. In the past, the company has said the allegations in such suits are not representative of the company as it is today.

On another front Thursday, the retail giant said it is using its global clout to cash in on one of the world’s most popular sports: soccer.

Wal-Mart said it struck a deal with Global Brands Group, the exclusive worldwide master licensee of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association [FIFA], to operate 2010 FIFA World Cup Official Event Stores in nearly all of its retail markets around the world. The shops, inside select Wal-Mart units, will offer exclusive FIFA World Cup official licensed products and host special events leading up to the games, scheduled for June 11 to July 11.

The men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, hats, bags, soccer balls and other products will be customized for each country where it will be sold. Wal-Mart stores in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, U.K. and U.S. are expected to participate in the program.

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