Walmart, the largest employer of women in the US, opposes a shareholder proposal calling for it to strengthen its policy to prevent workplace sexual harassment.
The proposal calls for the board to take a formal oversight role in sexual harassment policies and align executive compensation to stamping out the mistreatment of workers.
“The high-profile #MeToo social media hashtag, and sexual harassment claims involving public figures like Bill O’Reilly, Steve Wynn, Les Moonves and Travis Kalanick, have highlighted the prevalence of harassment and its impact,” says the resolution.
It cites a Harvard Business Review article about how sexual harassment affects a company’s public image.
The HBR researchers suggest “that a single sexual harassment claim can be enough to dramatically shape public perception of a company and elicit perceptions of structural unfairness. In the public’s mind there seems to be no such thing as a bad apple.”
Walmart opposes the measure, saying its policies “prohibit sexual harassment and the company’s training and education programs raise awareness about the policies and how to report concerns.”
The $514B retail giant says it goes well beyond “the minimum required by law.”
As part of the onboarding process, employees “participate in training modules and our global statement of ethics, which includes a discussion about our policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment,” says Walmart in the proxy statement.
A worker who observes or experiences harassment may report it to “any salaried member of management using our Open Door process," or “confidentially or anonymously to our Global Ethics Office via email or phone.”
Walmart assures stockholders that “it takes all allegations of inappropriate conduct seriously, and we believe we have robust policies in lace regarding the investments of harassment complaints of all types.”