Wal-Mart’s sick sick days policyPosted December 13th, 2009 by Katie Bethell
If you shop at Wal-Mart to finish up that last bit of holiday shopping this week, you may be coming home with more than a good deal–you might be exposed to contagious illnesses like colds and the flu.
Why? As the New York Times recently reported, “At Wal-Mart, when employees miss one or more days because of illness or other reasons, they generally get a demerit point. Once employees obtain four points over a six-month period, they begin receiving warnings that can lead to dismissal.”  The article continues, showcasing people who say that this type policy means that they’ve had no choice but to go to work sick. Sadly, for Wal-Mart employees, staying home when they’re sick hurts their family’s budget and puts their future employment status at risk.
The demerit policy is backward and unfair. It’s Wal-Mart the company, not it’s employees, that really deserves the demerits — for their unhealthy and unfair policy that’s bad for employees and customers.
With your demerit badge, you’ll be telling Wal-Mart to stop punishing employees for taking sick days.
Now’s the time to take action!
This week is the last full week of holiday shopping before Christmas. That means now, more than ever, Wal-Mart wants nothing but good press to drive shoppers to their stores. By sending your demerit badge today, and sharing this message with your friends by forwarding this email now, we can make sure Wal-Mart gets the message at a time when they can’t ignore it.
Once at least 40,000 demerit badges are given to Wal-Mart via the link above, we’ll issue a press release which is sure to catch the eye of Wal-Mart leadership in this holiday shopping season to ensure they get the point that their demerit policy is unfair, and it’s bad for the health of their employees and customers.
Why is Wal-Mart’s sick days policy important for all of us?
* Wal-Mart’s sick days policy is bad for women and families. Women comprise 72 percent of Wal-Mart’s workforce . As Gloria Steinem said earlier this year: “The fact is that women need [access to paid sick days] more than anyone else. Women still have so much more family responsibility than men…”  The increased responsibilities for caregiving that women carry mean that women are more likely to be at risk for punishment and termination under bad policies.
* Wal-Mart’s sick days policy has public health implications for us all. Wal-Mart employs about 1.4 million people in the U.S.  — that’s a lot of people who come to work sick, and expose their coworkers and customers to potential illness.
* When Wal-Mart changes its policies, other companies take notice. Wal-Mart is one of the largest private employers in the country . Therefore Wal-Mart frequently sets the standard (or at least the floor) for many of the policies that other companies put in place. We’ve heard from dozens of MomsRising members who say that the company they work for has sick days policies which are similar to the policies at Wal-Mart. By focusing our efforts on Wal-Mart now, we can set an example for other companies and propel them to change their practices as well.
MomsRising and the New York Times exposed Wal-Mart’s sick leave policies in early November of this year . Soon after, the company commented with ABC News reporting that Wal-Mart will be issuing a memo to “to human resource managers at stores across the country saying, ‘We must be clear that no one will lose their job if they get H1N1.’”  This answer is full of more spin than a spider convention.
It sounds like Wal-Mart answered, but if you think about it, this answer doesn’t address the problem at all. First of all, in most cases when people have flu symptoms, doctors aren’t doing lab tests to check for the H1N1 virus, so there’s no way for Wal-Mart to know if an employee has H1N1, the seasonal flu, or any other illness. Second, Wal-Mart didn’t address whether sick employees would continue to receive demerits, as is their usual practice. And third, our colleagues at the National Labor Committee have spoken to workers at several Wal-Mart stores who all say they haven’t been told of any changes to Wal-Mart’s sick days policy. 
In the past two weeks, MomsRising has asked Wal-Mart to clarify their sick days policy, but so far we’ve received no response.
Nobody wants to shop at Wal-Mart and end up bringing home more than just a bag of presents.
MomsRising and our partners insist that no retaliation be taken by Wal-Mart management against any worker who speaks the truth about Wal-Mart’s punitive sick leave policies. We will be watching this very closely.
1. The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/business/03sick.html?_r=4&pagewanted=1&ref=todayspaper
4. http://WalMartstores.com/FactsNews/FactSheets/ (Employment and Diversity Fact Sheet)
5. http://WalMartstores.com/FactsNews/FactSheets/ (Employment and Diversity Fact Sheet)
6. The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/03/business/03sick.html?_r=4&pagewanted=1&ref=todayspaper
7. ABC News: http://www.nlcnet.org/article.php?id=686 and http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/Wal-Mart-defends-sick-leave-policy-good-morning-america/story?id=9013693
- ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/SwineFluNews/walmart-sick-policy-irks/story?id=8999558
- Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/08/AR2009110818009.html?sub=AR