In a May 8, 1998 newsflash (see below) we told the story of Ben Guiliani, who runs a maintenance and cleaning business in Augusta, Maine. Guiliani had a contract with Wal-Mart to clean their parking lot. Guiliani, who is of Mexican descent, said that in 1994 he arrived at Wal-Mart to work and found the parking lot spray-painted with the words “White Supremacy”. Guiliani said he was also harassed and assaulted by Wal-Mart employees, one of whom said: “We don’t like your kind.” Guiliani said a Wal-Mart manager told him he was overreacting to the incidents, and the store later terminated his contract in 1995. Guiliani filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that he was discriminated against by the night crew at the Augusta store. His lawyer said Wal-Mart did nothing to investigate these complaints, because they were “too concerned for the bottom line”. A jury in District Court in Bangor awarded Giuliani $650,000 in damages in 1998, four years after the incidents. The law Giuliani used allows employees to sue over on the job racial harassment. The law allows people to enter into contracts without being subjected to racial discrimination. The judge later reduced Guiliani’s award to $300,000. Wal-Mart appealed the case to the First US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the $300,000. But Wal-Mart did not give up its efforts to defeat Mr. Guiliani. They took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, with Wal-Mart’s lawyers arguing that independent contractors do not have the same rights as employees to collect damages from a hostile work environment. On January 10th, the Supreme Court refused to let Wal-Mart off clean — rejecting their appeal without comment. Guiliani’s battle against Wal-Mart took him approximately six years of his life, and enormous aggravation. You can wash a parking lot free of slurs, but you can never wash away the memory of those slurs.
If there was a court higher than the U.S Supreme Court, would Wal-Mart have draggged Ben Guiliani there? Wal-Mart says their corporate culture is based on “respect for the individual”. As one Wal-Mart employee told me: I don’t know which individual they were talking about. It certainly wasn’t Ben Guiliani. In this case, Wal-Mart is a three time loser, having lost their arguments in at least three different courts.