Wal-Mart to Check Applicants' Criminal History

August 12, 2004 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - All Wal-Mart store employees will have to undergo pre-employment criminal background checks as part of a plan set to start in Midwestern Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores and eventually roll out nationwide.

The world’s largest retailer said the plan to check each applicant’s history for criminal offenses willeventually reach into other Wal-Mart divisions, such as distribution, the Associated Press reported. The company employees 1.3 million people worldwide and is closely watched in human resource circles for changes in personnel and benefits policies.

Wal-Mart said the program would start next month in all types of stores run by Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in the Midwest and expand nationally over the next several months. Anyone who lies on the application about their criminal background will not be hired.

A company official said the finalized program follows a year of pilot efforts nationwide, carried out in an effort to smooth out potential problems with conflicts in rules regarding collection of personal employee applicant data that might differ in various places around the country. “A process that meets the requirements in one geographical area may actually violate a rule in another,” said Sue Oliver, a senior vice president at Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s stores division.

“We have hundreds of thousands of trustworthy women and men serving our customers,” said Oliver. “By adding another level of security to our hiring practices, our associates can be assured that we are strengthening our efforts to try to intercept anyone who might otherwise damage that integrity. We also believe this will add yet another level of comfort for our customers.”

The move follows a South Carolina legislator’s proposal last month that would require all large companies that sell to children to conduct background screenings. The bill was proposed after two Wal-Mart workers in the state were convicted of fondling children in the stores. The employees were both convicted sex offenders.