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Six Workers Say Wal-Mart Played Dirty

BEAUMONT, Texas (CN) - Wal-Mart fired six employees for giving answers the company didn't like on a mandatory annual survey of workers that the retail giant promised would be anonymous, the six ex-workers say in Jefferson County Court.

The six plaintiffs - five of them women - say Wal-Mart administers its "Associate Personnel Opinion Survey" annually, and "the 'surveys' are supposedly anonymous."

They say the store managers "have historically encouraged their employees to take the 'survey' as many times as they want, to make sure that it appears that at least 100% of the store's employees have participated in the 'survey.'"

They claim that "Defendants or various of them, with approval of WM's corporate management, have historically assured and represented to plaintiffs that the employees could vote in the anonymous survey as many times as they wish and express any view on the matters made the subject of the inquiries without fear of retribution or discipline."

They claim that Wal-Mart store No. 449, in Port Arthur, Texas, put six computer terminals in its training room for employees to take the survey in January 2008. Shortly thereafter, they say, Store 449 managers called the employees to a meeting and announced that Store 449 did not score as highly as other Wal-Marts on the survey. The plaintiffs say that in February, they were "escorted off the floor to WM 449's management offices and questioned about the survey. The questioning was administered by various WM Loss Prevention and Human Resources personnel."

They claim their interrogators assured them they were not in trouble, asked the "if they harbored any grudges against WM, WM 449, or L [L is the store manager]. ... Some of the plaintiffs were asked if they had any complaints and responded that they weren't pleased that their wages had been capped."

After the interrogation, the plaintiffs say, they were "shunned" by management. Shortly thereafter, on March 3, they were "each plaintiff was escorted into L's office and was told by L that they were being fired for gross misconduct and integrity issues, and taking the survey more than once."

Plaintiffs say this is a fraudulent pretext. They demand punitive damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and negligent supervision. They are represented by Larry Watts of Missouri City, Texas.

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