The People of Walmart blog makes fun of what Walmart Shoppers wear. But, it doesn't generally make fun of how the employees dress, because it's been pretty standard and boring and no one really stands out.
But Walmart is making a big change in some of its stores--employees will be allowed to wear jeans. And you know what? We will continue to not pay attention to how employees are dressed. This is a good thing.
Bloomberg reports that Walmart is making this change in response to a tightening labor market. Jeans are the casual pants of choice, and it makes it easier to hire people if they don't have to go out and buy new pants.
You know what would make Walmart an even better place to work? If they allowed their cashiers to sit.
"There is no principled reason for denying an employee a seat when he spends a substantial part of his workday at a single location performing tasks that could reasonably be done while seated, merely because his job duties include other tasks that must be done standing," Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote for the court.
Walmart says this isn't reasonable because cashiers don't spend all their time behind the register. Walmart is fighting a class action lawsuit brought by its cashiers who claim they are denying them chairs. Walmart says all job duties must be taken into consideration and cashiers don't just sit.
This whole thing makes me think back to my days as a cashier at Kmart, where we were not only not allowed to wear jeans or sit, we had to wear dress shoes. Yep. No comfortable shoes for a job where almost no one saw our feet. While I'm sure that ridiculous part of Kmart policy wasn't what drove it into bankruptcy, I'm sure it didn't help.
Walmart at least recognizes that comfortable pants and shoes are helpful for attracting and retaining good employees. The chairs would make it even more attractive. But according to the Hostile Work Environment Podcast, Walmart says that the cashier job is an active job that requires standing, and furthermore standing cashiers are more productive.
But I suspect it's not so much productivity as it is the huge cost of buying chairs. There are 80,000 cashiers involved in this lawsuit, and while each cashier doesn't need her own chair, that's still a lot of chairs. Chairs that have to be purchased and maintained. Jeans, on the other hand, cost Walmart nothing and make employees happy.
So, hats off to Walmart for allowing jeans, and a close watch on Walmart for the lawsuit on chairs in California. Even as a former cashier, I get Walmart's logic, but as the labor market tightens, they will need to do more to attract employees, and better working conditions might be one of those things.