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labor Labor Panel Finds Illegal Punishments at Walmart

The National Labor Relations Board, after reviewing evidence of alleged retribution by Walmart against employees protesting working conditions, has found that the United States' largest employer illegally threatened employees who were considering taking part in planned demonstrations. While the Board has grounds to file a complaint, and may yet do so, it will wait in order to give Walmart and representatives of the employees an opportunity to come to a settlement.

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Walmart illegally disciplined and fired employees over strikes and protests, the National Labor Relations Board said on Monday.

In addition, the board’s general counsel said an inquiry found evidence that a Walmart spokesman, appearing on national television, had unlawfully threatened employees who were considering taking part in the protests.

While the board authorized the filing of a complaint asserting violations of workers’ rights, no complaint was filed on Monday. The board counsel’s office said it would give the parties a chance to reach a settlement.

Walmart denied the accusations, and it called the board’s steps “procedural.”

The board’s general counsel was investigating accusations made against Walmart stemming from protest activities planned last year for Black Friday, among others.

The scope of the accusations was wide, spanning activities in more than a dozen states, and according to the United Food and Commercial Workers union, it covered actions taken against about 100 Walmart employees.

“It’s a major case in terms of the number of stores,” said James J. Brudney, a professor at Fordham University Law School. “And it has a national scope in terms of unlawful threats and terminations.”

Last year, a union-backed group called Our Walmart organized protests at 1,000 Walmart stores in 46 states, a spokeswoman said. Thousands of people participated, demonstrating against retaliation against workers and in support of higher wages, although the company asserted that many were not employees.

In advance of that day of heavy discounts and widely publicized protests, David Tovar, a Walmart spokesman, said on CBS News, “If associates are scheduled to work on Black Friday, we expect them to show up and to do their job, and if they don’t, depending on the circumstances, there could be consequences.”