Wal-Mart watch | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Wal-Mart watch

Posted By on Sat, Oct 14, 2006 at 4:14 PM

Wall Street Journal reports everybody's favorite retaler is tightening up on sick policy for workers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has enacted a new attendance policy that penalizes workers for multiple unexcused absences and requires them to call an 800 number whenever they get sick, changes critics say are part of a bigger effort to nudge out unhealthy and long-tenured employees.

Also on the labor front, a Pennsylvania jury on Friday awarded $78.4 million to thousands of Wal-Mart employees who claimed they were forced to work during rest breaks and off the clock.

Wal-Mart, of Bentonville, Ark., says the new attendance policy benefits employees by documenting their requests for time off instead of relying on harried store managers to remember each request. And it benefits shoppers by discouraging unexcused absenteeism. "It's not for tracking; it's really to ensure a more consistent application of our absentee policy," spokesman John Simley said.

The new policy instructs employees requesting time off for illness to call an 800 number to get a code and then relay that code to their store manager for approval of their absence. Previously, employees asked their store manager directly for such time off, employees say.

In addition, the new policy formalizes penalties for employees who fail to get their absences authorized or don't bother to call. Among them: Any employee with more than three unauthorized absences in a six-month span will be disciplined, and those with seven will be fired. Any employee who is absent three times during a six-month period and doesn't call the 800 number for any of the three times can be fired. And employees needing more than three consecutive sick days are encouraged to apply for an unpaid leave of absence or time off under the Family Medical Leave Act. Previously, store managers had more discretion regarding discipline for unexcused absences.

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