workers' rights
5:00 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Federal Way Worker Says He Was Illegally Fired by Walmart

Protesters are descending on some 1,500 Walmart locations, including the store at Bellevue’s Factoria Mall, on this Black Friday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Joining them is a man who has been battling Walmart in Federal Way for several years over safety concerns. And now Gerardo Paladan says he was illegally terminated.

The Bellevue protest is just the latest stop for Paladan. Earlier this week, he made his seventh trip to Bentonville, Arkansas to protest at Walmart headquarters.  

Originally from the Philippines, Paladan started working at Walmart in Federal Way in 2006. He says he began butting heads with his managers after he injured his knees on the job, and the company denied it was a workplace injury.

"The biggest problem in Walmart is about the safety. It’s very important to workers," he said.

Paladan became involved in a workers organization group called Our Walmart, and started agitating for a safer workplace. That’s when he says his manager threatened to fire him.

"Walmart is harassing me about the soliciting. Walmart management [is] harassing me about safety for [the concerns] I voice out about the safety issue," he said. 

Unfair Labor Practice Charge

Last year, Paladan filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company, and the National Labor Relations Board sided with him. Walmart settled, agreeing, among other things, to post signs spelling out workers’ rights under federal labor law.

But last summer, Paladan says a co-worker said something inappropriately suggestive to him.

"I told him, `Leave me alone and don’t talk to me like that,'" Paladan said. 

But Walmart management suspended Paladan and later fired him. Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg said Paladan was fired for threatening another employee. Paladan filed another unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB, but the board sided against him this time. He is appealing that decision.

Still, as workers protest around the country on Black Friday, Walmart is under pressure from the federal government. The NLRB says it found evidence the company illegally threatened, disciplined or terminated workers in 13 states, including Washington. Walmart says it has treated its workers respectfully and lawfully.