By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com June 15 2010 7:00 PM ET
Back in March, 18-year-old Fernando Gallardo got a seasonal job at a Las Vegas Walmart, hoping to make a few extra dollars. But a few weeks into the job, Gallardo says, his immediate supervisor asked him "point-blank" in front of four of his coworkers if he was gay, and from then on alienated him from the 50 other associates at that location.
"I told her yes, and after that she was very rude and short with me," he tells The Advocate.
Gallardo says that soon after the incident, he was stripped of many of his daily duties and asked to wear a yellow vest and walk around the store. By mid May his supervisor and two other managers stopped talking to him completely.
"I was completely ignored and shunned," he wrote in a complaint to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission. "I had nothing to do all day but wander around the store wearing a yellow vest no one else had to wear, much like Jews had to wear a yellow star of David in Hitler's Germany."
Gallardo says he went to a human resources manager and filed a report, but to no avail. He also accuses the store's management of attempting to bribe some of his temporary coworkers with permanent positions, in exchange for saying he volunteered the information about his sexual orientation. However, Gallardo says he felt pressured into telling his boss that he is gay, by the pointed way in which she asked.
"It shouldn't even matter what my personal life is, but what was I supposed to say, other than the truth?" he says. "I didn't want to lie. This is who I am."
While none of the managers at the Las Vegas store contacted by The
Advocate would comment on the incident,
Walmart corporate spokesman Phil Keene says the company fosters "respect for individuals"
as one of its core beliefs and a foundation of
Keene also says that while the corporate headquarters has not yet been made
aware of Gallardo's case and therefore cannot directly address the
complaint, there may be an explanation behind the yellow vest.
"It is my understanding that the former associate was a temporary hire
while the store is under remodeling," Keene wrote in an e-mail to The
Advocate. "Between the 50 or so temporary associates in that store,
there is a rotation through the position of 'May I Help You' associate.
The several associates in this role wear a vest so customers can
identify them and ask for help in finding products that may have been
temporarily moved to a new spot."
The last straw came on May 17, a week shy of the day Gallardo quit
his job. He says two managers were talking loudly enough that
he could overhear. One, he says, told the other that Gallardo was "a little girl.
All he is good for is walking around the store."
Gallardo is now unemployed after leaving his position, but he says he no
longer dreads waking up to go to work in the morning. He has filed his
complaint with the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, and if his claims are found to be true, Gallardo could be entitled to monetary
compensation amounting to $114,000 and a position at another Walmart store. He is also requesting that the company hold mandatory annual cultural diversity
training for all Walmart and Sam's Club supervisors and managers in
Clark County, Nev., with a certified cultural diversity trainer.
"I just don't want this to happen to anyone else," he says.