business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than two years ago, Walmart investigated the store supervisor who killed six co-workers and injured four others, and then shot himself at the company's Chesapeake, Virginia unit, but did nothing about it.

According to the story, Walmart's treatment of the man - a decade-long employee who was the overnight shift manager - "and what it knew about problems at the store have been raised in two lawsuits brought against the company by employees who survived the attack."  Both suits allege that the shooter "demonstrated a pattern of disturbing workplace behavior."

The Journal writes that "in early 2020, Walmart regional managers interviewed members of the store’s overnight shift" about the supervisor "after several complaints that he was an unkind manager and engaged in threatening behavior, according to the former and current employees familiar with the investigation … Separately, people who had worked" with the man "said in recent interviews that he could be combative and difficult to work with. They said he would cover his cellphone camera with tape because he said he worried the government was tracking him."

The story notes that "it couldn’t be learned what steps Walmart took after the investigation, which hasn’t previously been reported. A spokesman for Walmart declined to comment."

KC's View:

You never think things are as bad as they are until they actually get much worse.  That's not an excuse, but it could be an explanation … though it is one unlikely to satisfy the family and friends of people who died or were injured, or, for that matter, were in the store and in harm's way.

This is something that Walmart and every retailer is going to have to think about, especially in the current climate when mass shootings have become a regular occurrence:  How many complaints have we gotten in the past about employees that we've ignored or minimized, but now need to revisit?  How many catastrophes are on the horizon?  And how do we move fast and responsibly to address these situations?

This isn't just a matter of human decency, though that ought to be enough.  Retailers - every employer, in fact - has a fiscal responsibility to deal with these situations as a way of avoiding inevitable lawsuits.