When In Doubt


Wal-Mart promotes executive who warned of sick workers

By Bloomberg News | April 6, 2006

A Wal-Mart Stores Inc. executive who suggested last year that the world’s largest retailer should avoid hiring unhealthy workers has been promoted to head its human-resources division.

The world’s largest retailer yesterday shifted five executives to new posts, moves that the chain said would help train a new crop of leaders. Wal-Mart, which has a history of shuffling top executives so they can learn how different parts of the business operate, named Susan Chambers executive vice president of the unit that oversees human resources and diversity. She succeeds Lawrence Jackson who was promoted to president and chief executive of global procurement.

In October, advocacy group Wal-Mart Watch leaked an internal company memo from Chambers that said Wal-Mart’s healthcare costs were rising faster than sales because its workers are ”sicker than the national population.” Labor groups, US lawmakers, and community organizations have accused the company of offering inadequate pay and benefits.

Chambers, who joined Wal-Mart in 1999 from Hallmark Cards, also wrote that Wal-Mart would ”dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work” by requiring physical activity with jobs. This could include requiring cashiers to gather shopping carts, she wrote. Chambers was then executive vice resident for risk management and benefits.