Greenhouse Omits Facts that Make Big Bad Wal-Mart Look Good

The Times' labor reporter skips the inconvenient truth: Wal-Mart overpaid 215,000 employees over the last five years, but is not seeking to recover the money.

A Wal-Mart story from Friday by labor reporter Steven Greenhouse, "Wal-Mart Settles U.S. Suit About Overtime," omitted facts that would have put a positive spin on an agreement between Wal-Mart and the U.S. Labor Department - that the big retailer actually overpaid thousands of employees.

By contrast, business reporter Marcus Kabel of the Associated Press discussed it in the second paragraph.

"Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay more than $33 million in back wages to thousands of employees after turning itself in to the Labor Department for paying too little in overtime over the past five years, according to an agreement announced Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department.

"Wal-Mart said the department's review of its overtime calculations also found it had overpaid about 215,000 hourly workers during the same five-year period.

"The company said it will not seek to recover any overpayments, which were at least $20 per worker."

But the Times' Greenhouse ignored that part of the story, available in Wal-Mart's press release, even though elsewhere in the story Greenhouse cites a statement by Wal-Mart spokesman Sue Oliverthat appears to come straight from the release.

Greenhouse only relayed the negative news about Wal-Mart: "The United States Labor Department announced yesterday that Wal-Mart Stores had agreed to pay $33.5 million in back wages plus interest to settle a federal lawsuit that accused the company of violating overtime laws involving 86,680 workers.

"Department officials said many of the violations involved failing to pay time-and-a-half premium pay to managers in training, programmers in training and some other salaried, nonmanagerial employees when they worked more than 40 hours a week."

(Such anti-business spin is common at the Times when the topic is Wal-Mart.)