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BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. here said yesterday it has terminated a Wal-Mart systems technician for intercepting text messages and recording telephone conversations without authorization.
The action is the result of an internal investigation that began on Jan. 11, 2007 when an individual used the Wal-Mart open door policy to express concerns about the recordings.
Wal-Mart said its investigation initially found that the systems technician had monitored and recorded telephone conversations between Wal-Mart public relations associates and a reporter from The New York Times. These recordings were made over a four-month period between September, 2006 and January, 2007. Wal-Mart said it notified The New York Times yesterday.
Under federal law and the applicable state law, a telephone conversation may be recorded if one party has given his or her consent. Wal-Mart's policies state that all electronic communications of associates using Wal-Mart communication systems are subject to monitoring and recording.
However, Wal-Mart said it records associate phone calls only in compelling circumstances and with written permission from the legal department. The company said the technician's recordings were not authorized.
Wal-Mart also said its internal investigation found that, in separate instances, the same technician had intercepted text messages and pages, including communications that did not involve Wal-Mart associates. The interception of text messages and pages that does not involve Wal-Mart associates is not authorized by company policy.
Wal-Mart said it has kept the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas informed of the internal probe, and that the U.S. Attorney would also conduct an investigation of the pager intercepts and the recording of phone calls.
The company said it has taken disciplinary action against two management associates for failure to carry out their management duties and that it has removed the recording equipment and related hardware from the system.
As a precaution, future use of the equipment will be under the direct supervision of its legal department, Wal-Mart said.