BENTONVILLE, Ark., Jan. 23 (UPI) -- A National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Walmart must offer reinstatements for 16 employees that were fired in 2013 for protesting.
Judge Geoffrey Carter found the employees were improperly punished for participating in a strike against the company according to the National Labor Relations Act. In addition to reinstatement, the ruling also ordered the company to offer the workers back pay and clear the disciplinary records of 38 employees who were punished but not fired.
Carter ruled against Walmart after finding that the company instructed managers to reply "I don't know" to employees who asked if they would be fired for missing work while striking. The company also counted strike absences as "no call/no show," three of which could lead to termination.
Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg spoke out against the ruling saying the company's action did not violate any law.
"We disagree with the administrative law judge's recommended findings, and we will pursue all of our options to defend the company because we believe our actions were legal and justified," he said. "We are focused on providing our hardworking associates more opportunity for success and career growth by raising wages, providing new training, education and expanded benefit options."
The case was filed by the Organization United for Respect at Walmart after workers were punished for participating in strikes calling for a minimum annual salary of $25,000.
Another group known as Making Change at Walmart, which supports the unionization of Walmart employees praised the ruling.
"Today's decision proves beyond doubt that Walmart unlawfully fired, threatened and disciplined hard-working employees simply for speaking out," communications director Jess Levin said. "Not only is this a huge victory for those workers, and Walmart workers everywhere who continue to stand up for better working conditions, but it sends a message to Walmart that its workers cannot be silenced. We will continue to fight to change Walmart for the better."
As part of the ruling Walmart managers at 29 stores must also hold meetings in to inform employees of their right to strike and promise not to threaten or discipline workers for striking.