Wal-Mart v Julie Roehm: Is this the end of corporate civility?

by Marianne Richmond on February 4, 2007

To address the specific issues of why Julie Roehm was fired from Wal-Mart is not within my purview. I only know what I have read and other than Julie Roehm and Wal-Mart, whose explanations are quite different, everything that has been written is speculation, informed or not. There is the Theory of Bad Fit and Nobu’s is a NoNo and the Mystery of the Gratuity Policy Violation. BusinessWeek has a long interview with Julie.

My issue is with this:

"Wal-Mart now has irrefutable and admissible evidence of an inappropriate relationship” between Julie and Sean, Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, told New York last week after almost two months of silence."

According to the Wall Street Journal Julie Roehm did not have an employment contract or a severance package. Arkansas is a "fire at will state." Along with wondering why she would have taken the job in the first place, let me just wonder why she was flying without a net? Or, let me wonder why it is now being reported that she is suing Wal-Mart for breach of contract. The WSJ reports the breach of contract suit but also states that Wal-Mart says she doesn’t have a contract.

But what I really don’t get is the necessity for the smear campaign. Wouldn’t it have been more civil for Wal-Mart to have let it go at with a few euphemistic words such as "bad fit" or "philosophical differences." Why start with "improper conduct." and then go to she had an affair and we can prove it. Weren’t things once, that civil? Julie Roehm has two children and a husband. Is it necessary to sling mud? Wouldn’t Wall-Mart’s brand image been a little less tarnished by some high road behavior?

Wal-Mart got 6 moments on Business 2.0 101 Dumbest Moments in Business 2006 which included as #5 the firing of Julie Roehm: Cutting off your nose to spite your smiley face. Wal-Mart’s Smiley face, Candidate Wal-Mart, took top honors. Is that a smile or an evil grin? Or is it that Candidate Wal-Mart (Was he separated at birth from Jack?) is


shares the belief that seems to dominate our elective process, the most effective way to win an election is to trash your opponent?

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