The legal and ethical issues that Wal-Mart has had to contend with point to the danger of neglecting diversity issues. The biggest legal headache that Wal-Mart has been faced with is a suit that was filed in 2005 by 1. 6 million current and former female employees who alleged that the company had discriminated against them because of their gender (Wal-Mart to help, 2005). This suit, which is unprecedented in US civil rights history, joins a long list of complaints against Wal-Mart for failing to observe diversity in it recruitment and remuneration practices.
Wal-Mart has also been sued by Black Truck drivers who allege they failed to obtain work with the company because of their race (Glater, 2005). Of all claims of discrimination, the one by the female employees is not just the biggest but also the most incriminating as the litigants managed to obtain the services of a consultant who produced statistical evidence to prove that the company uses discriminatory policies in both recruitment and remuneration.
In 2007, an American Watch group set up specifically to change Wal-Mart produced statistics to prove that women, despite being the majority employees, were relegated to lower cadre jobs (Wal-Mart has failed, 2007). This group also produced statistics to prove that Wal-Mart discriminates against other minority groups in the appointment of managers. The minorities discriminated against in the appointment to management positions include African-Americans and Hispanics. Wal-Mart has disputed these allegations with statistics to prove that diversity is at the heart of the company’s operations.
As evidence that the company pursues non-discriminatory practices, Wal-Mart gives a long list of programs that have been put in place to address diversity. In addition to putting a myriad of programs to address diversity, Wal-Mart states that it has appointed officers in charge of each diversity program (Diversity at Wal-Mart stores, 2009). The officers the company has appointed are responsible for the success of the diversity programs that the company has put in place and their bonuses are tied to the success of the programs they supervise.
To show that it has truly embraced diversity, Wal-Mart shows the contributions it has made to the education of minorities, its partnership with black businesses and the contributions it has made to charity. In 2007, for example, Wal-Mart was the biggest cash contributor to charity, giving over $300 million (Diversity at Wal-Mart, 2007). Although Wal-Mart has had an uneasy relationship with American organizations, such as Watch Wal-Mart. com, which are critical of the human resource practices of the company, it has tried to address the question of its global workforce especially with regard to diversity.
In 2007, Wal-Mart launched the Diversity and Inclusion program whose aim was to involve the communities amongst whom Wal-Mart works in activities meant to uplift those communities (Diversity and Inclusion, 2007). Under this program, the company created an associate development program whose aim was to bring associates to the same level of business operational standards as the Wal-Mart head office. One of the areas that the company attempted to address under the associate program is Corporate Leadership Development and Training.
Under this program, associates receive training in various areas including human resource management, merchandising and leadership. Although the Associate program is highlighted in the 2007 diversity program, the Walton Institute has been in existence since 1985 and it has been used to train managers from diverse areas where Wal-Mart has operations (Diversity and Inclusion, 2007). Associates are also given business simulation courses whose aim is to transfer the methods of business performance that the head office applies to the associate.