Retail giant Walmart has been in the news many times over the past year, mostly for poor or questionable treatment of its employees. Labor advocates have raised many questions regarding the low pay of Walmart employees and its response to employees who protest against the company’s actions.
The law prohibits a company from retaliating against any employee who engages in a protected activity. Under the National Labor RelationsAct (NLRA), employees have the right to form or join a union, to collectively bargain with an employer, to strike or protest an employer, or to refrain from engaging in any of these activities. If an employee chooses to do any of these things, an employer may not lawfully retaliate against them with any adverse employment actions, including but not limited to:
· Refusing to promote;
· Unpleasant job reassignment or transfer.
Last year, thousands of Walmart employees walked out or protested across the country, alleging inadequate pay and working conditions. Following the protests, many employees filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging they suffered such unlawful retaliation for their participation in the strikes. Though not all complaints were found to be valid, the NLRB did recently file a complaint against the multi-billion dollar corporation.
The NLRB Complaint
The complaint alleges that Walmart supervisors unlawfully retaliated against striking employees in California, Washington, Texas, Kentucky, and other states. Workers allege that supervisors threatened employees if they participated in strikes, and that Walmart issued reprimands and warnings to striking employees. Furthermore, the corporation wrongfully categorized any time spent protesting as “unexcused absences.”
While one instance of such unlawful retaliation is wrong, the fact that the retaliatory actions happened nationwide is especially troubling. California labor lawyer Michael Rubin has commented that, “It is a big deal if a company had a nationwide policy or practice, established, implemented, or overseen from corporate headquarters, to retaliate against on-the-ground employees.”
A Walmart spokesperson has stated the company will fight the charges, and is confident it will be vindicated. The spokesperson commented that employees should not reasonably believe they should be able to leave regularly scheduled shifts without being held responsible for leaving work or expecting to be disciplined. However, striking generally involves walking out of scheduled shifts, so this argument will likely not be very persuasive.
We will keep an eye on any new developments in the Walmart case. Additionally, Walmart is the target of another class action lawsuit involving wage theft from a large group of warehouse in Los Angeles.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding any type of employment matter, you should schedule a consultation with an experienced employment attorney to discuss a possible case. Do not
hesitate to contact HKM for help today.