Wal-Mart to Push Flextime on Law Firms

Discussion
Oct 29, 2009

By
George Anderson

It’s
common for large suppliers to place requirements on vendors as part
of doing business together. Wal-Mart, for
example, demands that its outside law firms be cost-effective, employ
a diverse workforce and achieve expected levels of performance. Now,
the company appears ready to add flextime as a fourth requirement for
firms that want to represent it in legal matters, according to a National
Law Journal
report.

Flextime
is often seen as an important workplace perk, especially for working
mothers.

Joseph
West, associate general counsel for Wal-Mart, said it’s not enough
for firms to simply offer flextime in employee manuals. “We’ve
found that even those firms that have flextime policies, they haven’t
communicated to attorneys in the firm that it’s OK to use them without
fear or shame,” Mr. West told attendees at the Association
of Corporate Counsel’s annual meeting
in Boston.

According
to a piece on The Business Insider website,
flextime may explain why some law firms have seen an increase in the
number of females becoming partners. The same piece questions how well
Wal-Mart will respond when it finds that attorneys are not available
24/7 because of flextime policies.

Discussion
Questions: Where do you come down on how much a company can dictate
to vendors in terms of their own business practices? If a company demands
a certain practice of one vendor, in this case flextime, should that
requirement apply to all that provide it with goods and services?

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9 Comments on "Wal-Mart to Push Flextime on Law Firms"


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David Livingston
Guest
11 years 6 months ago
Wal-Mart probably couldn’t care less whether or not their law firms offer flex-time. Most likely Wal-Mart discovered that the law firms they use already have a flex-time policy. They simply found an easy way to look PC. I doubt that the law firms have implemented flex-time just to hire women lawyers in general. These firms most likely wanted to recruit good attorneys, some of which just happened to be women, and these women dictated the terms of their employment. These law firms don’t have flex-time because they are trying to be nice. They do it out of necessity. I doubt this flex-time policy will trickle down to the cleaning crews. Is there any indication that Wal-Mart is even using the women who are employed by these law firms? I got a feeling Wal-Mart is using the men who are available 24/7. Wal-Mart simply stumbled across a way to look PC and get some free press. Don’t look for this to expand beyond law firms unless Wal-Mart can find it already exists someplace else.
Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

While Walmart’s goal is admirable, they should take better care of their own employees and let their vendors set their own HR policies. Then again, Walmart can make any rules it wants, and it’s up to a vendor whether or not to play.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

We all have employee relations practices that make sense for our firms. Retailers help themselves by keeping an eye out for “Best Practices.” Dictating policy, other than pointing out that “We’ll only deal with firms that hold ethical and legal standards,” is not only out of bounds, it’s a waste of energy.

If a retailer wants to influence its vendors, let them know about ideas and “Best Practices” that they themselves value and put into use.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

If you are paying the bill, you can set the standards. It is up to others to decide if they want to work with you.

Jonathan Marek
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

I agree with Mel. You pay the bills, you set the rules. Others can choose to work within those rules or not. Walmart has always done business this way but in the past, they have been far more focused on what helps their customer. The concern I would have is that by focusing on these types of policies, the focus on the consumer and WMT’s own employees may be diluted, as there is a fixed amount of management attention to go around.

Mark Burr
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

That being the case, I wonder if the same holds true for the partners they are buying goods from in China.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

I’ll have to admit, the question surprised me somewhat, as I was expecting (simply) “can WM” dictate working conditions to it’s vendors?” But the question actually asked raises an interesting issue: if WM DOESN’T impose the same restrictions on all its vendors, might it open itself up to a discrimination charge? Yes, the road to officious Do-Goodism has many hazards.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 6 months ago

In most workplaces, proselytizing is forbidden. And if you are among the many who define secularism as a religion, then some of WM’s supplier demands can be categorized as proselytizing.

Flex time is an idea sprung fully formed from secularism – i.e., pertaining to worldly things – but positioned as a morality play. It’s not necessarily good or bad based on that origin and I think it’s an unquestionably great practice. But at WM, their secular agenda sometimes gets fuzzy and includes moral positioning. This would include their refusal to carry certain magazines and music, continuing to carry firearms and ammunition and, straddling both secularism and moral values, their recent requirement of some of their suppliers to provide flex time. This is proselytizing. And even though you might agree with some of WM’s values (as I do), the imposition of one’s morality on others for business purposes is wrong.

Dennis Serbu
Guest
Dennis Serbu
11 years 6 months ago

Gee, we are entering the era of WWWD. (What Would Wal-Mart Do?) With the exception of standards that are defined as legal vs. illegal, large retailers and organizations would be better served to tend their own garden and resist moralizing and prescribing operational policies to the rest of the world. Flex time? That might work for some companies but be counterproductive in another. Where does this model go from here?

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