A Dress Code for Employees Might Mean More Profit for Walmart

Purchasing khakis and polos is now a requirement for associates who already struggle to make ends meet. Guess where the company says workers can shop.

Another reason for Walmart employees to protest: uniforms. (Photo: Robyn Beck/Getty Images)

Sep 11, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Twill pants and polos have become a hot topic for employees of the world's biggest retailer—and it's not because they're suddenly high fashion. Some workers at Walmart are outraged over a new requirement from the corporation's headquarters that all associates must now follow a dress code. Guess where the retailer has suggested its employees, who often scrape by earning only a minimum wage salary or just above it, can buy the clothing: Walmart.

The dress code mandate was announced by the company, which is valued at nearly $250 billion, in August via human resources manager Barbara Simone on Walmart's internal employee website. A worker leaked her memo to Gawker. It details how associates will now have to "wear white or navy blue collared shirts with khaki or black pants, capris, or skirts and close-toed shoes in any color.” The company will provide a navy blue Walmart vest. The point of all this, wrote Simone, is to enable customers to easily locate associates in the stores and to "help drive teamwork, customer service, and sales."

When it comes to sales, Walmart stands to make a pretty penny from the new clothing requirement. Simone helpfully pointed out that when employees shop in the store, they can "apply your 10 percent associate discount for an additional savings." The retailer's website has a dedicated page where associates can purchase the clothes.

That might not seem like a big deal if you earn a decent salary, but it's not the case for many associates at Walmart. Approximately 825,000 of the company's employees earn $25,000 or less per year. A group of moms who work for the corporation protested in May that they earn so little, they can't support their families. Now they and their peers will have the added financial burden of forking over money for extra clothing.

"The sad truth is that I do not have $50 laying around the house to spend on new uniform clothes just because Walmart suddenly decided to change its policy," employee Richard Reynoso wrote in a letter to the company, reported CBS News. Reynoso also shared that he only earns $800 to $900 every month in his job as an overnight stocker at Walmart. "If I have to go out-of-pocket for these new clothes, I'm going to have to choose which bill to skip," Reynoso wrote.

Walmart's not budging on its dress code stance. If Reynoso wants to keep his job, it's looking like he'll have to make that tough decision.