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National Women's Association Rewards Wal-Marts Treatment of Female Employees

Wal-Mart's Sex Discrimination Class Action Suit Doesn't Stop NAFE Recognition

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At one time in 2008, Wal-Mart was defending itself in approximately 80 different class action lawsuits filed against them in 41 different states. (That should secure them a top spot on a very different kind of “top 50” list.)

Most Recent Lawsuits and Judgments Against Wal-Mart and Other Major Retail Chains >>

In December, 2008 the company announced it would pay between $350 million and $640 million to settle 63 of those lawsuits, which all centered around wage-and-hour law violations. When looking at the numerous black marks on Wal-Mart's record regarding workplace behavior and employee relations, it seems implausible that the claims in the current sex discrimination case are completely fabricated.

So, how could a national organization like the NAFE applaud a company's treatment of women when that very thing is being legally challenged in such a high profile court case? The NAFE apparently gives a lot of weight to the number of females who hold positions with P&L authority when creating its list. In the case of Wal-Mart, reportedly one-third of its senior managers with P&L responsibilities are women.

So, despite what is happening with females on the front line, as long as there is an acceptable number of women in executive meetings, the company deserves recognition? This seems like the same kind of thinking that got Wal-Mart applause for its 2008 employee bonuses, even though CEO Lee Scott's inequitable bonus for the same time period was 3,300 times bigger than that of the average front line worker.

If we have learned nothing else from the financial sector implosion, the AIG bonus backfire, and the Madoff scam, have we not learned that companies and company leaders should not be considered successful if their achievements are gained at the expense of someone or something else? Perhaps the NAFE needed a more holistic set of criteria for its “Top 50” list, excluding companies which have record-breaking sex discrimination lawsuits pending against them.

For that matter, perhaps we all need to adopt a more holistic definition of success and make it known what our standards are. Perhaps some company leaders need that kind of external accountability to guide them as they’re forging employment contracts, and making workplace decisions. Perhaps we have no right to complain after a corporate offense is committed if we never made the effort to define what we consider to be offensive in the first place.

Perhaps a lot of things would change in the retail industry if customers stopped reading other people's top 50 lists and start writing some of their own.

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