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Group of Walmart employees allege discrimination at Fargo store

Halima Abubakar speaks about alleged discrimination she said she's suffered as an employee of a Fargo Walmart store Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018, during a Human Relations Commission meeting. Special to The Forum

FARGO — Several local Walmart employees are speaking out about alleged discrimination they say they've suffered at their jobs, including an unfair reduction in hours and prejudicial harassment by a manager.

However, a company spokesperson said an internal investigation didn't find any evidence of discrimination at a Fargo store, 4731 13th Ave. S.

Several employees spoke during the Fargo Human Relations Commission meeting Thursday, Feb. 15, and Chairwoman Rachel Hoffman said a total of about a dozen employees who were born in Somalia or Kenya attended the meeting.

One woman, translated by Commissioner Abdiwali Sharif-Abdinasir, said she was accused by a manager of not doing her job, when in reality she was speaking Somali to a customer who requested her help finding things she wanted around the store.

Halima Abubakar, also translated by Sharif-Abdinasir, said she's had her hours reduced. When she's tried to talk about it with the store manager, her concerns were brushed off or ignored. She said she's struggled with bills and supporting her family as a result.

Walmart spokeswoman Tara Aston told The Forum that the company takes these claims "very seriously," which is why it has already investigated the complaints about the manager at the Fargo store.

"We've done a thorough investigation, and we cannot find any sort of evidence that corroborates these claims," she said Friday, Feb. 16.

The Human Relations Commission didn't take formal action at Thursday's meeting, and the human rights group doesn't have enforcement authority in these matters, Hoffman said.

Instead, she said commissioners agreed to help connect employees with agencies that could take formal discrimination complaints and possibly investigate the matter, such as North Dakota's Department of Labor and Human Rights or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sharif-Abdinasir said he plans to meet Monday, Feb. 19, with several employees to help them write down their complaints and figure out next steps.

Hoffman said the large turnout at Thursday's meeting suggests the situation needs to be examined.

"I would just say that the amount of women who came forward with these allegations, it should definitely be reported and investigated," she said. "If that many are speaking out now with the fear of retaliation, you don't know how widespread it could be until it's looked into."

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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