Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Wal-Mart: Save Money, Live Sicker?

By Katie Bethel |

If you shop at Wal-Mart, you may be coming home with more than a good deal–you might be exposed to contagious illnesses like colds and the flu.

Why? As the New York Times recently reported, employees receive demerits, lose pay, and ultimately risk termination for taking sick days.

That’s exactly what happened to this family: ??”My husband just got fired for missing sick days. He missed 5 1/2 days in 6 months.”

This member of, a grassroots organization working on family economic security issues, reports that these were days when her husband had legitimate doctor’s notes or when her husband’s manager sent him home because of flu symptoms. He received “demerits” when he took this needed sick time, and “The day after Black Friday… they called him in and fired him for missing too many days in 6 months. He did not take off ‘weekends, sunny days, or go fishing’…he was sick. This is just wrong.”

Wal-Mart’s policy is not just unhealthy and unfair for employees, it also could harm customers and the general public. With about 1.4 million employees in the U.S., that’s a lot of people who could be coming to work sick, and unwittingly exposing their coworkers and customers to contagious diseases such as the flu–putting us all at risk.

Wal-Mart isn’t the only company with unhealthy and unfair sick days policies (even during the H1N1 emergency). In fact, this flu season more than 59 million employees in the U.S. have no paid sick leave. Even more—nearly 86 million—do not have paid sick leave to care for sick children. That’s bad for employees, and it’s bad for public health. When sick people go to work, they may bring their contagion with them and into the public.

That’s why has launched its Demerit Walmart campaign. We’re building a movement of thousands and thousands of people who are standing up to Wal-Mart until the company changes its short-sighted policy. It’s Wal-Mart and its executives who need a demerit badge, not its workers.

Give Wal-Mart a demerit badge today, and tell them to stop punishing employees for taking sick days:

Together, we can help millions of families stay healthy and keep needed jobs.

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