Judge Rules Walmart Violated Labor Law By Firing Workers On Strike

Date: January 26, 2016

National Labor Relations Board Judge Demands Workers’ Reinstatements With Back Pay

The AP reported that National Labor Relations Board Judge Geoffrey Carter has ruled that “Walmart violated labor laws by ‘disciplining or discharging several associates because they were absent from work while on strike’” in 2013. The judge ordered Walmart to reinstate the 16 former workers and give them back pay, as the employees’ actions were protected under the National Labor Relations Act. The judge also ordered the retailer “to hold a meeting in 29 stores throughout the country to inform employees of their right to strike, and to promise not to threaten or discipline employees for doing so.” According to USA Today, the employee protests in 2013 “were organized by OUR Walmart – an employee advocacy group focused on pressuring Walmart to improve pay and working conditions.” Walmart had argued employees that missed work to participate in protest “could be disciplined for unexcused absences” and were not protected by the NLRA because the strikes represented “intermittent work stoppages.” However, the judge disagreed, saying the protest could not be considered a “brief strike” nor was it “scheduled close enough together to other strikes that it could be considered intermittent.” Making Change at Walmart labor group spokeswoman Jess Levin called the ruling a “huge victory.” A separate AP article highlighted a statement released by Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg, who said his company disagreed with the judge’s ruling. Lundberg stated the Walmart’s actions were “legal and justified,” and added that the company is “focused on providing our hard working associates more opportunity for success and career growth by raising wages, providing new training, education and expanded benefit options.”

What This Means For Small Businesses

The NLRB has become more aggressive in finding fault with employers over policies regarding missed work. Anti-business rulings like this latest one against Walmart are a troubling direction for labor policy, because small businesses can ill-afford to mount a defense against allegations of labor violations if faced with similar threats from union activity.

Additional Reading

Reuters and the Chicago Tribune also covered the story.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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