Sunday, June 3

Firing Punchlines: Wal-Mart

If Julie Roehm thinks she has a wrongful termination suit after, er, allegedly breaching ethics policies, then David Noordewier, a former Wal-Mart cashier in Michigan, might get in line. He was fired for joking on his MySpace page that "the average IQ would increase if a bomb were dropped on the company's stores."

According to The Flint Journal, his bosses at the Shelby Township Wal-Mart store in Michigan weren't laughing. Noordewier said he was called into the office as soon as he arrived at work. Officials had him sign an acknowledgment that he was fired for "gross misconduct - integrity issue," which the company described as "theft, violent act, dishonesty or misappropriation of company assets," none of which Noordewier believes fits his situation.

The story says Wal-Mart spokesperson Kory Lundberg would not discuss the incident except to confirm he no longer works for Wal-Mart. Noordewier had a near-perfect attendance and exemplary customer service record, which included customer compliments. Unemployment officials now say Noordewier did not qualify for benefits because he had made a threat.

It seems to me that corporate might consider stepping in on this erroneous local decision. Firing employees for a single MySpace joke (though it might be ill-advised to use the word "bomb" and "employer" in the same sentence nowadays) is a blatant overreaction. The Shelby Township Wal-Mart store manager would have been better off talking to Noordewier rather than taking action.

Besides, this comes at the worst possible time while Wal-Mart is still attempting to perform damage control on its apparent appetite for snooping on, well, everybody. Its heavy-handed surveillance tactics were brought to light during the ongoing battle with Roehm.

Lately, it seems the only good public relations news for Wal-Mart is that Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs is suing Roehm. Jacobs, who owns a company that supplies Wal-Mart, says former Wal-Mart executive Roehm defamed him when she published statements about the relationship between his company and her former employer.

The new lawsuit comes after Roehm's ill-advised attempt to exonerate herself of ethical breaches by accusing other executives at the #1 retailer of ignoring company ethics policy too. Now that's a punchline.

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1 comments:

Rich on 6/7/07, 8:45 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

"The bottom line, Noordeweir's complain is a dog-bites-man story hardly worthy of AP wire coverage, but perhaps for the media's obsession with badmouthing Wal-Mart and, in this case, a dangers-of-MySpace hook." — Ken Shepherd, NewsBusters

Ken Shepherd has a good point in that there seems to be an obsession in covering Wal-Mart. For our part, we thought (and maybe the AP did too) that it was relevant given the ongoing Roehm story and general corporate indecision about how to handle blogs and MySpace accounts.

As for Roehm, we still think she would have been better off dropping the original case before she put herself in the position to dig a bigger hole and forever brand herself as the "former Wal-Mart executive." Given she has her own company now, it seems shame the media almost never mentions her new title.

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