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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is reviewing its options after a federal administrative law judge ruled that the retailer violated the National Labor Relations Act in its treatment of striking employees in 2013.

Geoffery Carter, National Labor Relations Board administrative law judge, ruled Wal-Mart was in violation of the act related to its handling of protests. Carter ordered the retailer to reinstate 16 workers and give them back pay.

Wal-Mart can ask for a review of Carter's ruling, issued late Thursday, before a full panel of labor board judges. That decision could then be appealed in the federal circuit court of appeals.

"We disagree with the administrative law judge's recommended findings and we will pursue all of our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified," Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg said. "We are focused on providing our hardworking associates more opportunity for success and career growth by raising wages, providing new training, education and expanded benefit options."

Carter also ruled that Wal-Mart must inform employees in 29 of its 4,500 U.S. stores of their right to organize without threat of discipline. Wal-Mart argued that it was within its rights to terminate the 16 employees because their protests happened during unexcused work absences.

Making Change at Walmart, an organization working for the unionization of Wal-Mart employees, said the ruling was a "huge victory."

"Today's decision proves beyond doubt that Walmart unlawfully fired, threatened, and disciplined hard-working employees simply for speaking out," Jess Levin, communications director for the organization, said in a statement. "Not only is this a huge victory for those workers, and Walmart workers everywhere who continue to stand up for better working conditions, but it sends a message to Walmart that its workers cannot be silenced. We will continue to fight to change Walmart for the better."

Earlier this week Wal-Mart announced changes to its paid time-off and short-term disability plans for more than 1 million U.S. workers. The changes will go into effect Feb. 20 with a second round of pay increases for employees.

The company committed to $2.7 billion in pay increases and other improvements for workers, to be phased in over two years, in February 2014.

Business on 01/23/2016

Print Headline: Labor ruling: Wal-Mart violated law

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