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  • Topic: Ethics, Employment, Labour law
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  • Published : January 21, 2013
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Case Study 22: “Wal-Mart: But we do give them a 10 percent employee discount”

In this case study, Stanwick & Stanwick (2009) give the reader a synopsis into the allegations and ethical issues which the giant retailer Wal-Mart has been facing since the end of the twentieth century. Wal-Mart is being accused of asking their employees to work off-the-clock and not paying them for this work, for not paying its employees overtime when it was the case, for discriminating against women, for not offering affordable health insurance to its employees, for being anti-union, for using illegal immigrants, and violating child labor laws or partnering with foreign companies which did not follow fair labor practices. Many of these issues have resulted in severe criticism, class-action lawsuits, and millions of dollars in settlements that Wal-Mart had to pay to current or former employees. I would like to start by addressing the Questions for Thought posed by the authors: 1. Are the ethical issues Wal-Mart faces really any different from other large retailers? The issues described by Stanwick & Stanwick (2009) are not unique to Wal-Mart. Many other retailers and business organizations have been alleged and sometimes proven guilty of the same unethical or illegal practices. For example, in January 2006, MSNBC, published an Associated Press article about a lawsuit filled against IBM for not paying overtime to their employees (nbcnews.com, 2006). In the same article, it is revealed that previously, Computer Sciences Corp. and Electronic Art Inc. agreed to settle lawsuits who brought the same overtime allegations against them, and that this practice is common in the technology industry. In May 2012, Huffington Post found that a former Taco Bell manager was alleging the fast food chain was making employees to work overtime without pay (huffingtonpost.com, 2012). Wal-Mart is also not the only business who has been accused of discrimination against women. According to The Wall Street Journal, in February 2011, the U.S. division of Toshiba was sued for discrimination against women over pay and promotion (wsj.com, 2012). General Electrics, Abercrombie & Fitch, Denny’s restaurants, and Wal-Mart have also had lawsuits filled against them for racial discrimination (about.com, n.d.). In 2012, the Department of Labor filled a lawsuit, and won, against an Ohio Subway restaurant owner for violating labor laws: paying less than the minimal wage, failing to pay overtime to employees, and having minors work in hazardous conditions (tribtoday.com, 2012). Many other companies have been accused of using child labor or contracting with companies who use child labor and violate labor laws: Samsung, Dell, HP, IKEA (chinalaborwatch.org, n.d.). 2. Wal-Mart officials have stated that they don’t feel women are interested in management positions at the company. Do you agree or disagree? I have a hard time believing that the leadership of Wal-Mart, who was capable of turning this retail business in one of the largest private employers in the world, would genuinely believe that in the twenty-first century women are not interested in management positions with the company and this is the reason behind Wal-Mart’s low number of women in managerial positions. Additionally, the facts presented by Stanwick & Stanwick demonstrate that Wal-Mart did not have a policy about making management positions available to everyone in the organization, and that woman were indeed being paid less than men for doing the same job. The description of how Wal-Mart’s male employees looked and thought about their female counterparts are inevitably a reflection on the company’s philosophy, because even if it is expected that some individuals would have this type of discriminatory ideas, it is not acceptable for the company who employs them to not address this issue. 3. Wal-Mart is continually criticized for its healthcare policy. Is this really an...
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