In the summer and fall of 1997, a couple of former Wal-Mart employees were hired by Amazon.com the on-line book seller. One of the former Wal-Mart employees became the head of Amazon.com’s Information System’s division. Wal-Mart recently sued Amazon.com claiming that Amazon made a concerted effort to “raid” Wal-Mart employees and hire them away. Amazon.com has now filed a countersuit against Wal-Mart claiming that the latter filed its suit to act as a “poison pill”, preventing other Wal-Mart employees from going to work at Amazon.com, and to obtain information during the discovery part of the lawsuit regarding the e commerce strategies of Amazon.com. In their lawsuit, Amazon.com says that “Wal-Mart has a reputation for acquiring and retaining its competitive advantage at the expense of the others, including the underprivileged, its workers, the towns and cities it enters, most specifically with respect to this (lawsuit), the competition it destroys.” Amazon.com asserts that Wal-Mart “in the context of its competitors…has obtained this advantage through unfair and anticompetitive means.” The Amazon.com suit also suggests that “Wal-Mart has suffered employee morale and labor problems for the last few years, and there are several Web sites dedicated to the problem. See, e.g Walmartsuck.com.The turnover rate in Wal-Mart’s information services division alone is approximately 16%, or about 250 employees a year.” Amazon.com also charges that “In an effort to limit the flow of employees and without any legal basis to do so, Wal-Mart has contacted employers to request that they cease further hiring efforts or not hire specific employees, and on occasion has threatened to cease doing business with the potential employer unless they accede to Wal-Mart’s request. Wal-Mart has also threatened suit or other action against potential employees if they hired Wal-Mart employees.” Amazon says that “faced with recent employee defections” Wal-Mart is using its lawsuit against Amazon.com “as a way of sending a message and chilling the employment decisions of Amazon.com, its employees and other potential employers throughout the United States. Amazon.com points out in its lawsuit that it has no noncompeting clause agreement with Wal-Mart that would prevent it from hiring Wal-Mart workers. The company has no nonsolicitation agreement with Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart employees are only at-will anyway. .
Amazon.com claims that almost at the same time it filed its lawsuit, “Wal-Mart reduced prices on its on-line book operation and announced free shipping for all book orders.” Amazon.com says that Wal-Mart’s prices “are below cost.” Amazon.com has asked the court to rule that Wal-Mart’s claims have no legal basis, and that Amazon should be free to interview, solicit for hire and consult with any person who was formerly affiliated with Wal-Mart. Sprawl-Busters.com is proud to be considered one of the internet sites that gives examples of Wal-Mart employee discontent.