Walmart Inc. has settled a Justice Department suit involving a naval petty officer who claimed the retailer passed on hiring her because of her naval reserve obligations, the DOJ said Tuesday.
It’s relatively uncommon for federal agencies to get involved on behalf of employees or applicants alleging discrimination, let alone the DOJ. The department’s civil rights division, which represented Naval Petty Officer Third Class Lindsey Hunger in the suit, generally focuses more on potential civil rights violations by state and local governments rather than discrimination allegations against private employers.
But the resolution helped extract an agreement from Walmart that it would review company hiring practices involving military members, according to the DOJ’s statement.
“Walmart is one of the nation’s largest employers and scores of dedicated service members all across the United States will benefit from this settlement and Walmart’s agreement to update its employment and training practices,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the civil rights division.
Hunger had sought work at a Walmart store in Grand Junction, Colo., but claimed she wasn’t hired because of some naval reserve work she would have to do, according to the DOJ. That violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, she had claimed.
Hunger had filed the complaint with the U.S Department of Labor, whose Veterans’ Employment and Training Service looked into the claim and passed it along to the DOJ. Hunger was also represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
As part of the resolution, Walmart will have to provide back pay to Hunger, and review the company’s hiring practices. For instance, the retailer will update its policies to state explicitly that “Walmart prohibits discrimination against individuals, including applicants, based on their military service (including required military training obligations) or membership in the uniformed services,” and train managers and other staff accordingly, according to the DOJ.
A Walmart spokesman said the company hires more veterans and military members than any other company in America. Walmart is also a top private sector employer in the country, and has 2.2 million workers around the world, most of them in the U.S., according to the company’s web site.
“This was an unfortunate situation and we’re glad we could resolve the case with the Department of Justice and Ms. Hunger,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a statement Wednesday.
“We’ve also updated our policy to reinforce that employment protections for military members apply during the hiring process,” he said. “We appreciate Ms. Hunger’s service and wish her well.”