Amsterdam News Staff
Walmart and discrimination have been in the spotlight often in the past few years, and last week was no exception.
Six former employees of a Walmart in Lake Charles, La., are taking the retail giant to U.S. District Court, accusing the company of race and age discrimination.
The six Walmart employees told local television station KPLC that they had worked at the store for many years but were let go last year with no explanation. The former employees alleged that the retailer was covering up age and race discrimination when they realized they had been replaced by younger white employees.
Port Arthur-based attorney Jill Pierce told KPLC that Walmart abandoned its own policies in its treatment of these individuals.
“Walmart has a policy of progressive discipline, which requires employees to be counseled regarding any employment issues if Walmart doesn’t believe that they’re doing their job,” stated Pierce. “It requires counseling, a verbal warning, a written warning to allow an employee the opportunity to correct any deficiencies.”
Wilson Goodley, 62, said that after 28 years of employment, he was fired for three absences, whereas a younger white employee who missed more days of work didn’t get fired.
“She had 19 unexcused absences and she’s a white associate and she had 11 no-call, no show,” Goodley told KPLC.
Although the suit seeks money, it also asks for the workers’ jobs back. However, some say they just want fairness for loyal, dedicated employees. Unions and activists have commented on the situation, including Jess Levin of the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union.
“How many lawsuits by workers will it take for Walmart to realize it has a serious problem?” asked Levin, who holds the position of communications director for Making Change at Walmart, in an email statement to the AmNews. “They have had to defend themselves against the largest gender discrimination suit in U.S. history, where millions of women accused the retailer of discrimination in pay, promotions and job assignments, and, more recently, a class action lawsuit alleged that they denied benefits to employees married to same-sex spouses. Enough is enough.”
Levin also wanted to remind Walmart of its relationship with ethnic minorities who work there.
“As the nation’s largest employer of African-Americans, it is simply unacceptable in this day and age that any worker could be treated as the workers in this new lawsuit allege,” stated Levin. “Walmart’s response is not sufficient in addressing the serious accusations this suit. All Walmart workers, no matter their race, gender, age or sexuality, deserve and expect respect, fairness and equality at the workplace.”
In a statement sent to KPLC, Walmart spokesperson Besty Harden said, “We strongly disagree with the allegations raised in the complaint. Each of the plaintiffs was terminated for legitimate business reasons, and we stand by that. We intend to defend the company against these claims.”