Was This Walmart Doing A Bad Thing By Being Closed On Easter But Asking Employees To Work?

When a store says it’s closed on Easter so its employees can spend time with their families, does that mean the entire store should be a ghost town? Or is it okay to have a volunteer skeleton crew in to keep things moving behind the scenes? And should the workers who do volunteer to come in be paid extra for giving up their holiday? These questions and more are being debated about a Walmart Supercenter in Maine.

Last night on Reddit, a user posted the above photo in reference to a Walmart in Auburn, ME, which apparently had a sign on its door explaining that it was closed for Easter Sunday so that employees could enjoy the holiday with their loved ones, but which also had associates working inside while it remained closed to the public.

(Note: The Walmart in the image does not appear to be the actual store, but is presumably being used just to indicate that it’s about a Walmart store)

There is much debate in the Reddit discussion about whether or not this is true, even though the user who posted the image cited the location and phone number of the store in subsequent comments.

We contacted Walmart to see what it had to say.

A rep for the retailer confirmed to Consumerist that this store, along with others in Maine, was closed because state law requires that retailer locations over a certain size close their doors on certain holidays, including Easter.

So yes, it was closed, but only because Maine law required it to be closed for the day. Some might say it’s insincere to claim that the location was closed for the benefit of the employees. Others might say it just sounds better than saying “The state made us do this.”

What about the employees working inside?

The rep from Walmart HQ claims that all the associates who came in yesterday did so on a voluntary basis. The total number of volunteers was about 20 at the Auburn store.

As for wages, the volunteers were paid their standard wages, confirmed the rep, rather than any special holiday pay.

There are multiple ways to think about this situation.

On the one hand, one could argue that some volunteers may have felt obligated to work yesterday just to keep paying the bills and because management rarely looks poorly at an associate who chooses to come in on a holiday without seeking bonus pay.

On the other hand, there’s the argument that Walmart had to close these stores yesterday and that the volunteer-worker option was a way to work around the state law and get these employees paid.

And there will be some on both sides who contend that anyone working on Easter Sunday deserves an extra dollar or two per hour, regardless of whether or not they volunteered.

Here’s where you vote:

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  1. NorthernPike says:

    Volunteer? Hahahahahaha.
    Volunteer as in “Volunteer to come in on Sunday or don’t bother coming in on Monday”.

  2. trmiller says:

    This is pretty ridiculous for a number of reasons. My local Wal-Mart stayed open even when undergoing major renovations that lasted a number of weeks, so to have the entire store closed for a faux-holiday like Easter, but also having employees come in when the posted sign read that the reason the store was closed was so the employees wouldn’t have to work, is just backwards. It’s likely the person who put up the sign was not in communication with the “volunteer” coordinator.

    • JoeBlow says:

      I’m not really sure why you are labeling Easter as a “faux” holiday. I mean, my understanding of the word holiday is that it was to mean “holy day,” of which Easter is one of the big ones in Christianity. I mean, what constitutes a faux-holiday? Is it not going in to work, but not actually celebrating what you’re supposed to be celebrating while not at work? Or is it focusing more on the eggs at Easter and the presents at Christmas, and less on the religious significance of the day? I mean, I don’t really go to church myself, but since I don’t work on Sundays anyway, I never really thought of Easter as one of those “not really a holiday” holidays.

  3. BikerGeek79 says:

    Often, the “Volunteer” part of the equation is not very accurate.

    At many stores I’ve worked at (though walmart wasn’t one of them), to do something like a big plano reset required several people and lots of coordination. The managers would need a certain number of people or else it wouldn’t work, and you can’t open the doors to customers with half an aisle blown apart being reset, so just taking longer with fewer people isn’t an option.

    Plus, as was mentioned above, if you say “no thanks” to working on a holiday, you get branded as someone who doesn’t like to work, and you’ll find your hours are the first cut when payroll gets thin.

    For another thing, many states (not sure if Maine is one of them) have holiday pay laws that go something like:

    If: day=holiday AND store=open AND you=working regular scheduled shift;
    holiday pay=”YES @ OT rate”
    If: day=holiday AND store=closed AND you=scheduled to work that day;
    holiday pay=”YES @ normal rate”
    If: day=holiday AND you=not scheduled to work;
    holiday pay=”NO”

    So they might be getting around paying everyone overtime for calling it a Volunteer shift but they ought to be paying OT anyway.

    • CzarChasm says:

      “Plus, as was mentioned above, if you say “no thanks” to working on a holiday, you get branded as someone who doesn’t like to work, and you’ll find your hours are the first cut when payroll gets thin.”
      I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Why would you NOT be interested in keeping more motivated workers?

      I will never have a problem with volunteer work on a holiday, assuming that it’s not like one poster said where it’s “come in on Sunday or don’t come in on Monday”.

      • SingleMaltGeek says:

        In most retail or fast food jobs, that’s exactly what it is. Come in whenever we ask on zero notice or don’t come in again.