Wal-Mart Ethics Code Angers Germans | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 15.03.2005
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Wal-Mart Ethics Code Angers Germans

The German subsidiary of the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, has again infuriated employees, this time over policies that workers believe interfere with their private lives and force them to spy on colleagues.

Ethic codes do not translate well

Ethic codes do not translate well

Often mistrusted for its American corporate culture, the German subsidiary of Wal-Mart has once again stuck its foot in it. Employees of the 92-store discount chain received a moral lecture along with their February paychecks: a code of ethics employees must follow or face termination, the Financial Times Deutschland reported Tuesday.

The code forbids Wal-Mart employees from accepting presents from suppliers, dictates that employees may not fall in love with a colleague in a position of influence and requires workers to report colleagues immediately "if they observe that they have broken the rules." Non-compliance of the rules can lead to termination.

Translation problems

The German management of the company said they adopted the code after increasing requests by their American counterparts to do so. Still, representatives of employees say they will fight the code through the courts. The company declined comment.

Employee's rights expert Manfred Confurius told the Financial Times Deutschland that US employees face more concrete and stronger restrictions, something that doesn't always transfer well to German work culture.

"Such ethic codes should, in general, be voluntary," he said.

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