In a letter to Home Depot employees last year, CEO Arthur Blank said “the secret to Home Depot’s success is its Values, which have guided us to ethical action and decision-making.” Every Home Depot employee is supposed to receive a 21 page booklet titled “Ethics”, which begins by stating “Good company behavior is simply good business.” The guide to Home Depot Ethics makes it clear “as an equal opportunity employer, we are committed to an environment which is free from discrimination. This applies to all areas, including hiring, training, advancement, compensation, discipline and termination.” Well, Home Depot’s “secret” must be a secret at their store in Southfield, Michigan, where 12 current and former “associates” are suing the company for $1.12 billion for racial discrimination. In 1997, Home Depot paid out over $100 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought by thousands of female employees alleging gender-based discrimination. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, and claims that managers at Home Depot denied promotions and training to black workers, and then retaliated against them when they took their complaints to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. The huge corporation has agreed to meet with the state’s Civil Rights staff on January 20th. to discuss the lawsuit. Home Depot’s only official response was: “(we) have zero tolerance against any discrimination”. But for the plaintiffs involved in this latest lawsuit, the statement might simply read:”Home Depot has zero tolerance.”
“This is a wake up call to a lot of people,” said the lawyer representing the Home Depot workers. For more information on the lawsuit, contact the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. And remember: good company behavior is found in manuals, bad company behavior is found in stores.