Retail giant Wal-Mart is under fire after the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint stating that the company unlawfully disciplined and fired workers after they participated in nationwide protests and strikes seeking higher wages. Some of the protests against Wal-Mart were held in New York on the last two Black Fridays, which is generally considered the busiest retail day of the year.
According to the complaint, the company violated federal laws in 14 states. It involved 34 stores and more than 60 employees. Nineteen employees allegedly were fired after taking part in the demonstrations, while others received verbal warnings. Some faced other forms of disciplinary actions. The complaint also added that Wal-Mart spied on some of its employees.
The NLRB complaint asserts that the company made unlawful threats of retaliation to employees, twice on national television and in statements at specific stores. The National Labor Relations Act protects all workers, union and nonunion, whenever they engage in specific activities. These protected activities include protests concerned with better work conditions and wages.
One corporate officer and more than 60 supervisors are named in the complaint. In its defense, Wal-Mart contended that the firings were not because the employees participated in the protest, but because the employees had violated attendance guidelines. The company also asserts that it treated its workers legally and respectfully. If Wal-Mart is found liable, it is legally bound to reinstate employees, pay back wages and reverse any disciplinary actions. The company will also be obligated to notify employees of their rights.
New York employees who feel their rights were violated by being fired may be eligible to file wrongful termination lawsuits against their employers. Doing so can help them recover back pay. Workers also can be reinstated. Guidance from an employment law professional may prove invaluable for such a lawsuit.
Source: The New York Times, “Walmart Is Facing Claims That It Fired Protesters,” Jad Mouawad, Jan. 15, 2014