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Wal-Mart's Labor Woes Teach GCs A Lesson In Law

"Respect for the individual." "Service to our customers." "Strive for excellence." According to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Web site, these are the company's three basic principles to which it claims it has remained true. Although the world's largest retailer may have gotten the second and possibly the third fundamental belief right, respect for the individual is certainly an attribute 1.6 million of its female workers recently called into question.

The former and current employees filed a class action lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, in California in June 2004 against the company, claiming it sexually discriminated against its female employees by failing to promote them into management positions. A judge found their claims to have merit, certifying the class almost immediately.

Additionally, if companies think there may be a problem, they can create the survey to address those specific concerns. For example, if a company believes it may have a potential wage and hour problem, it can ask the question: Do you see any department within the company in which the hours being worked are excessive?

"The combination of making the survey anonymous and asking slightly leading questions can bring out a fair amount of information," Westman says. "But if employees have no outlet for their concerns, it could drive them to litigation."

Under the headline "Wal-Mart is working for everyone," CEO Lee Scott claimed the company pays its employees fairly, offers them low-cost health care and gives them plenty of opportunities for internal promotion.

The ads ran in local newspapers, such as the Seattle Times, as well as national ones, such as USA Today.

staff Writer

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