Home / Tech / Walmart workers fear that the retail giant is spying on their social media activity after an employee was fired for anonymously posting confidential information to Reddit (WMT)

Walmart workers fear that the retail giant is spying on their social media activity after an employee was fired for anonymously posting confidential information to Reddit (WMT)

FILE - This Oct. 26, 2016, file photo, shows prices in the toy section at Walmart in Teterboro, N.J.  An escalating trade war with China could mean higher prices on a broad array of products from toys to clothing. But some retailers will feel more pain than others, further deepening the divide between the winners and the losers that was evident in the latest earnings reports. Analysts say big box giants like Walmart and Target, which have had strong performances, are best positioned to absorb the higher costs because of their clout with suppliers. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

  • A Walmart employee was fired this week for anonymously posting confidential information about a new company initiative to Reddit.
  • Now some Walmart employees are fearful that the company is spying on their social media activity. “A lot of people are scared,” one employee told Business Insider.
  • The firing has also sparked calls for unionization. “There has been an explosion of really overzealous people that I think are going to try to push to get unionized,” said a grocery department worker at a Walmart store on the East Coast.
  • Walmart said it supports employees’ rights to share their opinions and give feedback, but takes seriously any sharing of confidential information. “The associate was terminated earlier this week for sharing sensitive business information in violation of company policy,” the company said.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Some Walmart employees are fearful that the company is spying on their social media activity after a worker was fired this week for anonymous Reddit postings.

The fired employee was a regular contributor to a highly active Walmart-focused forum on Reddit with more than 54,000 subscribers.

He was fired Monday for sharing confidential information, including internal company documents, about a new Walmart initiative called Great Workplace that is being tested in some stores. 

The employee announced his termination on Monday in a post to Reddit that advised Walmart workers to “be mindful” of the company’s confidentiality policy. He said the firing was “entirely” his fault and said Walmart officials presented him with printouts of his Reddit profile during a meeting prior to his termination.

Read more: Walmart is trying to rally workers around gold stars and ‘attitude cards’ as part of a massive store-level shakeup

Realize that Walmart is a huge corporation and if they want to, there’s a good chance they can and will find you,” he wrote. When contacted by Business Insider, the employee confirmed the details of his firing and asked to remain anonymous.

Walmart said it supports its employees, which the company refers to as associates, sharing their opinions.

“We support our associates’ right to share their opinions and give feedback, but we take the sharing of confidential information in any form very seriously,” a Walmart spokeswoman. “The associate was terminated earlier this week for sharing sensitive business information in violation of company policy.”

Workers fear retaliation and delete social media posts

The firing has ignited fears among some Walmart workers that the company is watching what they post online and could potentially retaliate against them. It has also sparked a crush of calls for worker unionization that have flooded the Walmart Reddit forum within the last three days.

“A lot of people are scared,” said a California-based Walmart employee who asked to be identified only by his first name, Michael. “I personally went to my Reddit account and went through all my posts to remove anything that could identify me.”

Walmart

Four other workers, all of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing their jobs, told Business Insider in interviews that they created new Reddit accounts and/or deleted social media posts following the firing.

We are all fearful of the retaliation of home office,” said one employee, in reference to Walmart’s corporate headquarters. “Many of us have Walmart as an only option for a job, like myself. …Walmart cracking down and holding people responsible for what they say in their free time — it’s almost a violation of our first amendment, to free speech and the right to assemble. Deep down, we all know Walmart is too big for anything to happen to, so we just have to deal with it.”

Employee’s firing ignites ‘explosion’ of calls for unionizing

While some people are deleting their Reddit accounts and scrubbing postings, others are rallying for unionization in response to the firing. 

“There has been an explosion of really overzealous people that I think are going to try to push to get unionized,” said a grocery department worker at a Walmart store on the East Coast.

What the fired employee shared on Reddit “didn’t fall exactly under whistleblower [protections], but he was offering transparency which a lot of people really want,” this person said. 

Several workers said they wanted Walmart to do a better job at communicating new policies to store-level employees, so they didn’t have to turn to Reddit for information.

“People are pissed off because [the fired employee] was a good source of information,” said Michael, the California-based employee.

Another employee said: “Everything I have learned about Walmart has come from Reddit.”

Read more: Walmart US CEO asked workers to email him their biggest complaints, and a surprising theme emerged from the deluge of 2,700 messages he got

It’s unclear at this point whether any of the hundreds of comments about unionization posted online within the last several days will gather steam beyond Reddit. 

Four workers said the calls might not go anywhere due to fears that Walmart could retaliate against people for union efforts through measures such as calling the company’s labor hotline, firing them, or closing their stores.

But all four said they were hopeful that conversations about unionization would continue.

“I would love for it to start a worker movement,” said a Walmart cashier of two years. 

Contact this reporter at hpeterson@businessinsider.com.

SEE ALSO: Walmart is trying to rally workers around gold stars and ‘attitude cards’ as part of a massive store-level shakeup

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