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Black Friday sales shouldn't cancel out employee rights

Black Friday is a day of great sales. It is also a day that poses a great danger to workers. As droves of shoppers show up at stores to score great deals on merchandise, employees are in danger of being trampled by the crowds. This fact hasn't gone unnoticed by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Under a general duty clause, OSHA issued a fine of $7,000 against big box retailer Walmart after a worker was killed during the store's Black Friday sales.

As part of a deal that prevented the retailer from being prosecuted, the company agreed to create crowd control plans to help ensure worker safety. OSHA has also issued guidelines to help retailers provide workers with a safe workplace that is required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The problem now is that Walmart still hasn't paid the $7,000 fine levied against them for the incident that happened six years ago. In an appeal of the fine, Walmart maintains that the dangers of Black Friday weren't predictable. It is speculated that the retailer is appealing on the basis of principle and not because of the fine. The theory is that the company is appealing the decision because of the precedent it sets. In essence, if the fine is upheld, retailers could be liable for future Black Friday injuries and deaths.

As the case continues to move through the legal system, the fact remains that a young man was asphyxiated because he reported to work at a Walmart Black Friday sale. The 34-year-old man had only worked for the store for a week when he was killed at work.

Any worker who notices unsafe conditions on the job and those who have been injured at work have the right to speak out against an employer. Knowing how to do so and how to take legal action when employee rights are violated can make it easier for Missouri workers to take a stand when necessary.

Source: Huffington Post, "Six Years Later, Walmart Still Hasn't Paid A $7,000 Fine For Black Friday Worker's Death" Dave Jamieson, Nov. 25, 2014

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