scarlet letters

Just How Bad Was Walmart’s Gay Yellow Vest?

A few weeks after 18 year-old Las Vegan Fernando Gallardo got a job at Walmart, his supervisor confronted him in front of four coworkers and asked if he is gay. Gallardo said yes and afterward his supervisor stripped away most of his daily store duties, became curt with him, and made him start wearing a bright yellow vest, presumably to tell the fag apart from the rest of the breeders. Now Gallardo is filing a complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, but a Walmart flack suggests the yellow vest might have more to do with signifying Gallardo’s actual work position than signifying that he has “the gay.”

Phil Keene, a spokesman for the company, says, “It is my understanding that the former associate was a temporary hire while the store is under remodeling. Between the 50 or so temporary associates in that store, there is a rotation through the position of ‘May I Help You’ associate. The several associates in this role wear a vest so customers can identify them and ask for help in finding products that may have been temporarily moved to a new spot.”

Furthermore, it’s not uncommon to see stockboys wearing yellow vests in the store to warn shoppers that standing too close could get a dolly run over your feet or a box of Underoos dropped on your head.

Gallardo’s supervisor still sounds like a hater — he says that she and two other store managers stopped speaking with his two months after admitting his homosexuality — but is it possible that has Gallardo over-reacted to his yellow vesting?

After all, he compared the vest to the yellow stars that Nazis made Jews wear during the Holocaust, which would make sense if Walmart were more a bit more like Auschwitz, except that Auschwitz didn’t have 2-for-1 candy specials, a detergent aisle, or free samples of Wing Dingers in the frozen food section.

Granted, Walmart doesn’t have the most sterling record when it comes to treating gays well: The CEO supported a gay adoption ban in Arkansas, a Chicago area store once harassed and arrested two gay dads, and the company scored a whopping 40 our of 100 in the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index Ratings. But one ex-employee also says the store has a specific non-discrimination policy which plainly includes sexual orientation, that they extend domestic partner and gay marriage spousal benefits to those in the states where they are legal (sort of half-assed), and that they once faced a boycott from over-zealous conservatives for joining the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. (This handy chart shows the company’s timeline.)

That’s not to excuse Walmart. If Gallardo’s boss is as anti-gay as he says, it behooves the retail giant to step up and deal with her or face legal action — including violating its own non-discrimination policies.