Walmart allegedly fired workers who protested during Black Friday
The complaint involves more than 60 employees in 14 states who say they were terminated for protesting their work schedules and wages around Black Friday in 2012. There were rallies in about 100 cities.
Victor Williams, a law professor at Catholic University's Columbus School of Law, says Walmart has a history of protecting its own brand over its employees because of the business culture in its headquarters, Bentonville, Arkansas.
"Arkansas has a tradition of being very pro-business, and very restrictive toward unionization, and restrictive towards employees' rights."
The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, is an independent federal agency which monitors employees rights.
Williams says the burden of proof for employees who allege they were fired for unlawful reasons is usually very high. But in this particular case, a certain threshold has already been met.
"It is very difficult for an employee to prove that a termination or a discipline was because of protesting activities. It's very difficult to prove that, but these employees have, to the satisfaction of the National Labor Relations Board," says Williams.
So what will happen to Walmart if they're found to have unlawfully terminated their employees? They could be forced to reinstate the fired employees and give back pay.
Williams says the NLRB will be looking to see if there is a culture of intimidation over unionization.
"If it's a nationwide policy and practice, established and implemented from Bentonville corporate headquarters, that is retaliation writ large, and the public relations impact of that, I think, would be devastating to Arkansas," says Williams.
"They would have to rethink their policies in terms of the way they treat their employees, because what are we talking about here? We're not talking about employees who have done something wrong. We're talking about employees who have dared to speak out. Employees who have dared to stand on a sidewalk in front of their own Walmart store and say 'this is unfair.'"