United for Respect calls on Walmart to publicly commit to
employees that they won’t be fired or lose their bonus for taking sick time


NATIONWIDE — Today, following Walmart’s memo to all U.S. store employees explaining how the corporation is responding to the coronavirus crisis, United for Respect leader and Walmart employee of four years Melissa Love issued the following statement:

“As it stands, my coworkers and I are scared to call out sick because we don’t want to lose our chance at a bonus or put our jobs at risk. In the face of the coronavirus, we’re worried that Walmart’s punitive sick time policy will lead to people coming to work when they’re contagious. Walmart should publicly commit to associates that we won’t be fired or receive points for calling out sick to take care of ourselves and our families. Anyone who shows symptoms of the virus should receive paid sick time, even if they haven’t accrued it under the current policy. We shouldn’t have to fear losing our jobs or not qualifying for a bonus if we decide to stay home with the virus.”

Walmart employees report being afraid to use their sick time because they could be fired. In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the CDC has issued guidelines for employers encouraging them to maintain flexible sick time policies and not to require doctors’ notes from employees who are out with respiratory illnesses. United for Respect leaders are calling on Walmart to offer paid sick time to employees who show symptoms of the virus, even if they have not accrued time under the existing policy, and to publicly commit to associates that they won’t be fired or receive points if they stay home from work to take care of themselves or an ill family member.

In December 2018, Mary Pat Tifft, a Walmart shareholder and United for Respect leader, filed a shareholder resolution calling on the corporation to “evaluate the risk of discrimination that may result from Walmart’s policies and practices for hourly workers taking absences from work for personal or family illness.” Walmart management opposed the resolution.

Eighty-eight percent of Walmart associates went to work while ill during a 12-month period, according to a survey by United for Respect and the Center for Popular Democracy. Responding to public pressure from United for Respect leaders and partners, Walmart announced in February 2019 that it would begin offering up to six days of ‘Protected Paid Time Off’ (PPTO) to associates. The move echoed a petition by United for Respect, which garnered more than 17,000 signatures, calling on the corporation to publicly commit to provide all associates with at least six paid sick days each year “to ensure that no one loses their job when they get sick.”

However, Walmart’s time accrual policy makes it especially difficult for part-time hourly employees to accrue sick time. With the rollout of PPTO, the corporation implemented a bonus plan that seems to incentivize employees to come to work while ill and make it easier to fire employees who miss work. Walmart cut the number of attendance infractions allowed in a six-month period down to five from nine, at which point associates can be terminated. Quarterly bonuses also began to depend on each associate’s attendance in addition to their store’s performance.

If you’re covering Walmart and would like to speak to an hourly employee, please contact Taylor Campbell at (202) 854-9571 or [email protected].