On November 28th 2008, a Wal-Mart employee on Long Island was trampled to death during a stampede of 2,000 rabid consumers who broke down the doors just before 5 a.m. In a settlement that spared the company criminal charges, Wal-Mart agreed to adopt new crowd management techniques in all 92 of its stores in New York State, set up a $400,000 fund for customers hurt in the stampede, and to donate $1.5 million to community programs in Nassau County. But one penalty still remains, and the Times reports that Wal-Mart is fighting it tooth and nail.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] has fined Wal-Mart $7,000, accusing the company of failing to provide a place of employment that was "free from recognized hazards." OSHA claims Wal-Mart failed to protect workers from a situation that was "likely to cause death or serious physical harm" because of "crowd surge or crowd trampling." Instead of just coughing up the infinitesimal sum, Wal-Mart has spent an estimated $2 million on legal fees fighting the penalty. The litigation, in turn, has required the Labor Department to sacrifice five full-time lawyers, and 17 percent of the available attorney hours in the department’s New York office have been devoted to the case.
"OSHA wants to hold Wal-Mart accountable for a standard that was neither proposed nor issued at the time of the incident," David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, tells the Times. "The citation has far-reaching implications for the retail industry that could subject retailers to unfairly harsh penalties and restrictions on future sales promotions." Wal-Mart didn't admit any wrongdoing in its settlement with Nassau County prosecutors, and store officials are worried that if the OSHA Review Commission upholds the $7,000 penalty, it'll set a precedent that will subject Wal-Mart to OSHA monitoring every time they have a sale that might incite a stampede of unhinged, acquisitive idiots.