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Low staffing levels threaten safe working conditions at Walmart

It is every business's obligation to provide safe working conditions for its employees. Those employees who are injured have the right to work free from any retaliation or harassment from their employer following their injury under existing employment law.

Unsafe working conditions are not always created by dangerous equipment or some obvious hazard -- the danger can be caused by more subtle problems. Many Walmart employees in California have complained that understaffing has created unsafe working conditions for them, and that those who speak up face retaliation.

For example, one California Walmart employee claims she was injured in part due to low staff levels. This woman began experiencing pain in her arm shortly after being promoted to manager of the health and beauty department of her Walmart store. The woman alleges that her superiors forced her to work overtime due to the low number of employees. Many others in her department were laid off or their hours were cut -- leaving more heavy lifting for her to complete during her longer shifts.

This employee reported the pain to her manager but was told that many other people wanted her job. After getting a doctor's note noting her limitations, she says that she was still forced to do the same amount of work without help. Eventually, this employee became so injured Walmart allowed her to go on disability leave.

After being placed on disability, the woman still received letters from Walmart threatening to fire her if she didn't return to work. Now, with the help of an attorney, Walmart has paid for this woman to have surgery on her arm. There is an ongoing discussion to determine if Wal-Mart should pay for a second surgery.

With about 72,000 associate employees in California, and a new store opening soon in Los Angeles, other Walmart employees are worried similar situations could arise. Walmart, however, maintains that it is committed to providing a safe environment for their employees to "learn, grow, and advance."

All employees have the right to be safe at work, and they have rights under the law to protect them from danger and retaliation.

Source: The Huffington Post, "LA Walmart Employee, Girshriela Green, Tells Her Story Of Poverty And Injury," Kathleen Miles, March 21, 2012

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