Plus, Wal-Mart turned away in Greenwood
Cheryl Vara has decided to reject the final settlement offer from her former employer Menards. In their wrongful termination settlement, brokered through the Attorney General's Office and the Indiana Department of Labor, Menards admits no wrongdoing, and the new deal reflects very few changes from the original settlement offer. Cheryl Vara decided to reject Menards' offer.
Vara, featured in NUVO's Dec. 15 cover story, was fired from her position as office manager at the Carmel Menards store after reporting OSHA violations last spring. According to Vara, her supervisor asked her to falsify insurance documents related to the injury of Menards employee Bob Deele. Vara also claims Menards did not report an earlier accident as a result of the same faulty shelving that injured Deele.
Despite the Indiana Department of Labor's conclusion that Vera was wrongfully terminated, Attorney General Steve Carter's office has declined pursuing her case.
After nearly five months of waiting, Vara received Menards' final settlement offer a few days after her story appeared in NUVO. In a telephone conversation with Department of Labor Attorney J.T. Whitehead, Vara learned Menards would still not offer any more than $9,000 less standard payroll deductions, and would agree only to lift the non-compete clause prohibiting her from working at any of Menards' competitors if she agreed to turn over all documents in her possession from her Menards employment.
Vara decided against accepting Menards' offer and is considering other legal options.
Vara's story generated strong response from readers, and the numerous messages of support have been passed on to Vara.
The Vara family had this to say to those readers:
"We truly appreciate the response of the many people wanting to help us. It's a wonderful thing and it brings our trust and hope in society, as a whole, back to life because there are good people willing to help. However, we would hope that any one who does share their generosity with us would not in any way take away from the holiday that would normally be shared or enjoyed by themselves and their family and friends. The feelings that we have right now, derived from the love and moral support of our friends and family and the incredible support we have received from the community, truly make this a season of hope and optimism.
"The Vara Family"
Donations can be sent to the Vara family, c/o Jim Poyser at NUVO, 3951 N. Meridian, Indianapolis. 46208. If you're sending a check, make it payable to Cheryl Vara.
Many readers have also written about their own experiences with Menards, including stories of other Menards employees injured or terminated. One reader described witnessing a furniture unit fall from a shelf injuring a Menards employee who was too afraid to ask his supervisor for medical help.
Find the original story at www.nuvo.net/archive/2004/12/15/whistleblower.html.
Wal-Mart loses again in Greenwood
Greenwood residents, led by a group calling themselves White River Citizens United, recently defeated a proposed Wal-Mart project within their city limits for the second time this year.
At their Dec. 13 meeting, all 10 members of the Greenwood Plan Commission voted against the proposed Wal-Mart site at Indiana 135 and Smith Valley Road in Johnson County.
The proposed site would have encroached on the newly built Shepherd's Grove neighborhood, made up primarily of retirees, a fact that had many residents and commission members concerned.
A crowd of more than 100 attended the meeting and voiced their opposition to the project. Many were Shepherd's Grove residents who spoke of promises made by new-home builders that the adjacent property would be a site of more homes, not retail business.
The current recommendation to reject Wal-Mart's proposal will be forwarded to the Greenwood City Council, which is not expected to meet until early February. And commission members and residents are confident the council will uphold their position.
Though this site has been moved several times, Wal-Mart has not given up its plans to build in the area. The retailer is expected to return to the Greenwood Plan Commission soon and request permission to build just east of 135 and Smith Valley Road less than a mile from the site rejected at the December meeting.
Wal-Mart has already gained approval and begun construction at another Greenwood location just off of I-65 at the intersection of County Line Road and Emerson Avenue.
It's been a busy year of expansion for Wal-Mart. The company recently made headlines with its decision to build a superstore less than a mile from the Teotihuacan ruins outside Mexico City. The 2,000-year-old ruins include ancient pyramids and evidence of an ancient culture. Construction on the Wal-Mart project has ignited international protests that intensified after religious relics were unearthed. But government officials allowed work on the project to continue.
Work began before Wal-Mart acquired necessary permits and permission of the Mexican government. By the time the project was headline news and protests ensued, completion of the store was nearly complete.
Wal-Mart has maintained that it will make every effort to preserve the artifacts, and has announced plans to display an ancient altar and other religious articles in a tourism center to be located in the parking lot.