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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.

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  • Rikard

    for the record the appropriate response to that question is “that doesn’t seem like an appropriate discussion for work. i’m free later if you would like to chat after work.” they might ask you out for a drink, or to go to church. either way you make the point that there is a line and they might have already crossed it and there may already be consequences. in any case keeping things friendly is recomended.

  • TommyOC

    @Rikard: Exactly! I’ve had the same question posed to me before and in most cases, I take it out of the work environment. A simple but pleasant, “I prefer to keep me work and personal lives separate” usually generates the response I’m looking for.

    Of course, once you go that route, you kinda have to keep to your word. This excludes you from involving yourself in the personal affairs of others.

    Not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Leo Murrieta

    I certainly don’t disagree with the other two commenters on this article, but I’m also not willing to let this issue get swept under the rug of the bigger picture here, ENDA.

    LGBTQ’s across the nation wouldn’t have to worry about a situation like this happening where they work if we had those protections, or at least we’d have a leg to stand on if it did. I 100% disagree with throwing out the Nazi comment, are you kidding me? I can understand that it was an emotional moment for him if it went down like he said it did, but we all know that we can get carried away when we’re under diress. The Nazi comment sunk his ship on this one, but the big picture is that our communiites need equal protections and we need our equal rights.

    I don’t shop at Wal-Mart because they don’t support their workers, whether they be straight or LGBTQ, their discrimination knows no bounds.

  • USCG2006

    As a salaried manager (who is openly gay) for WalMart hopefully I can give some better insight. WalMart has a strict non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation. If any associate ever alleges discrimination on the basis of any protected class under policy, salaried WalMart Human Resources Managers come in and do an independent investigation. If an allegation of discrimination is substantiated then the person conducting the discrimination is held accountable, up to and including termination. His supervisors should have never asked about his sexual orientation, that also is a potential violation of policy.

    When stores undergo remodels lots of associates change positions on a daily if not hourly basis to accommodate customers, this is especially true of temporary associates.

    I know WalMart does not have the best track record with the GLBT community, but rest assured that is slowly changing. I had the same hesitation before joining the company, but in my own personal experience I have experienced a warm and welcoming work environment. My fellow members of management and my hourly associates treat me and my husband with respect and dignity. I have several gay associates and even a trans-woman working in my store. I have been part of discussions on how to make WalMart a better employer to the GLBT community as well as a better ambassador to the community.

    Rest assured, this case will be internally investigate and there will be accountability held to all levels of management in that store.

  • Mountainword

    @USCG – *cough* Bullshit!

  • unemployed queer

    @USCG2006: oh kiss my gay ass!In the recent past i’ve worked for one of the largest corperations in the world and policies and training are a joke at walmart. One has nowhere to go to complain and if you did the whole store would know.Getting people to work for the least amount of money and giving them only part-time positions with zero benefits(like being full-time would be a reward). It is an employer of misfit toys and from my short time with them… managers are fluffers and fat whores!…so make us all proud homo walmart gay manager-your company stinks but has really cheap vodka! smooch!

  • Bill Perdue

    Wal-Mart is the enemy. According to the AFL-CIO they’re the poster store for greed.

    Wal-mart engages in union busting policies, ruins local retail economies and jobs and pays abysmal wages. With their goal of selling huge quantities of shoddy products they are no friend of consumers.

    Wal-Mart workers are forced to seek government-subsidized health care benefits, which means that other workers and consumers pick up the tab while the fortunes of Sam Walton’s litter totaled almost $84 Billion dollars this year. (Forbes fo 2010)

    Their corporate culture is so backward that Hillary Clinton spent six years on their Board of Directors learning how to bust unions. For the most part their attitude towards the LGBT communities is hostile but limited by their fear of fear of boycotts and lawsuits.

    Support the AFL-CIO union organizing drive at Wal-Mart

  • Brandon

    I worked for Wal-Mart for about 6 years. When they found out I was gay they sabotaged the department I worked in as department manager. We were in inventory mode I scanned all my candles and they were on order I had an order sheet that said they were on order. They were deactivated. So I ran out of stock and was written up. I was was conveniently moved to help grocery right when it was deactivated.

    I had people walking around asking if i got shit on my tally whacker.

    When I called for help to lift heavy furniture my co manager said you are a man lift it your self.

    the box weighed about 90 to 100 pounds and was about 5 feet long. and the box said team lift.

    if you come out as gay prepare to be tortured.

    I had walked off the job because the torture was so much. With in 3 days the district manager called me telling me I had my job back minus my management position.



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