Thursday, April 3, 2008
From the state court of appeals in Arkansas, as reported by CCH Work Week:
The whole unsavory incident gathered a fair amount of notoriety: Wal-Mart fired a global services manager for engaging in an improper affair with a coworker, in violation of the company's fraternization policy, after it hired an investigator to follow the couple down to Central America to catch them in a clandestine encounter.
The discharged employee filed suit, alleging breach of contract and public-policy wrongful discharge, contending he was actually fired for reporting inhumane working conditions in Wal-Mart's factories abroad and for disclosing the company's attempts to strong-arm employees into altering the results of their factory-monitoring findings. But even if it was true that Wal-Mart's annual report contained deceptive information about factory working conditions, as the employee alleged, "Wal-Mart's purported failure to follow its private, internal policies or the labor laws of foreign countries does not implicate the public policy of this state," an Arkansas appeals court held, affirming summary judgment for the retailer.
The case is Lynn v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Ark App. Ct. Mar. 19, 2008) (Westlaw Subscription required). Actually, more lurid than surprising since it is common in public policy tort cases for states only to find instances of public policy in constitutional provisions, statutes, and sometimes, in decisional case law.
Still, the whole idea of Wal-Mart hiring an investigator to follow an employee to Central America is not only unnnerving, but also begs the question of whether that same money can be better put to lower employee health insurance premiums.