Wal-Mart Labor Relations

What factors may have accounted for the discrepancies uncovered by the Drogin Report?

According to Drogin, one of the possible factors was that many Wal-Mart store managers believed that salaried management candidates had to be willing to relocate and they communicated those beliefs to women who could have been candidates for management positions. This was the case despite the fact that necessary relocation was actually a rarity and that there were provisions to enable women to opt out of that requirement. Generally, female employees are less likely than male employees to consider relocating to take a new position, especially if they are married, because more families rely on the husband's employment as their primary income source than rely on the wife's employment.

By purposely stressing the relocation issue in discussing promotional opportunities with female candidates, male Wal-Mart managers may have artificially steered them away from accepting those positions, especially if those managers were aware that relocation was rarely required or that the women could have used the available opt-out provision in the contract. Another possible factor identified by Drogin was that managers had the discretion not to post management opportunities publicly and that male managers may have chosen to communicate the availability of those positions only to male employees. By purposely communicating the availability of managerial openings, male Wal-Mart managers may have artificially ensured that more male candidates actually applied for those positions than potentially eligible female candidates for the same positions.

What should Wal-Mart do to correct those discrepancies?

The discrepancies identified by Drogin have relatively straightforward solutions. First, the company should clearly publicize the policy on relocation for managerial candidates, including the available opt-out provisions and it should retrain managers to communicate those policies accurately. Second, the company should consider withdrawing the discretion of managers to withhold publicizing available promotional opportunities and require that all eligible candidates receive notification thereof. Promotional opportunities should be announced to all eligible candidates and then selections should be made on the basis of merit from all of the applications received.

Should Wal-Mart implement affirmative action promotions programs for females?

Probably not. Affirmative action is associated with potential downsides and can create the appearance of so-called "reverse discrimination." It may be warranted in cases such as widespread public systemic and multi-generational discrimination could conceivably have undermined equal opportunity in employment to such a great degree (as in the case of racial bias prior to the Civil Rights era) that drastic measures were required to provide equal opportunity to subsequent generations.

However, in the Wal-Mart case, the discrimination affected only specific individuals (even though they numbered in the thousands). The best solution that would be associated with the fewest negative ramifications would be to simply correct the specific policies, procedures, and practices that were identified as being responsible and to ensure that future promotional and employee compensation decisions were made fairly and without regard for gender. It would also be appropriate to compensate the specific individuals affected directly, but there is no need for an affirmative action type of program in this case.


Should Massey Energy be held morally responsible for the deaths of the 29 miners?

Yes. In the year prior to the explosion that took their lives, Massey had been cited eight times for "substantial" violations pertaining to methane monitoring functions. According to federal inspectors, the methane monitors were…