Many large retail chains have what they call an “open door” policy, encouraging their “associates” to bring issues or complaints to the attention of management. Some employees of these companies, like Wal-Mart and Home Depot say the “open door” policy at these companies means “open your mouth, and you’re out the door.” In Home Depot’s case, the company has a “No Retaliation” policy that says employees who come forward with complaints or concerns will not be punished in any way. But that’s what happened to Bruce Holt, a Home Depot employee who the company moved from New Jersey to Connecticut around Christmas of 1998, to have Holt open a new lumber distribution center in Bloomfield, Connecticut. Shortly after his move, Holt ran afoul of the Regional Distribution manager, who supervised his work. He and his supervisor differed over policy at the new warehouse, and roughly 7 months after his transfer, Holt decided to test the “open door” policy, and took his problem to a higher level. A few days after raising his issues, Holt was fired. Holt sued, claiming that Home Depot terminated him in violation of its No Retaliation policy. According to his attorneys, Livingston, Adler, Pulda, Meiklejobhn & Kelly, when the case went to trial in federal court, Home Depot defended its actions by saying that it was free to fire Holt — regardless of the No Retaliation policy — because Holt was an “employee at will”. The jury however ruled against Home Depot, finding that the company was obligated to abide by its No Retaliation rule. “Home Depot argued that they had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they promised that there would be no retaliation,” said Holt’s attornies. “I am not surprised that the jury rejected that argument. If a company like Home Depot promises its employees that they can come forward with their concerns without fear of retaliation, they should have to live up to that promise.”
It only took Bruce Holt four years to get his day in court. Home Depot’s open door policy says: “Even with open communication, your immediate supervisor may not be able to solve all your concerns or problems. Home Depot cares about these concerns. If your Department Supervisor or Assistant Manager cannot help you, the problem should be taken next to the Store Manager, District Manager, Divisional Vice President, and finally, to the Divisional President. Keep in mind, that your Human Resource Manager is available to help you with any problems. Because we care about your concerns, no retaliation is ever taken for using the Open Door Policy.” For further information about this case, contact Atty. Henry Murray at 860-874-8657.