The Ninth Circuit recently considered a lawsuit by employees of overseas companies that sell goods to Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., claiming that the working conditions in their foreign factories were inconsistent with the fair-employment code of conduct adopted by Wal-Mart as a standard for its suppliers.  The Ninth Circuit found that the vendor’s employees had no standing to pursue such claims against Wal-Mart as a customer of their actual employers, rejecting theories of third-party beneficiary, joint employment, common law negligence, and unjust enrichment. In essence the Ninth Circuit found that under the facts presented, Wal-Mart owed no legal duty to its vendor’s employees.  The Ninth Circuit’s rejection of the third-party beneficiary claim, which seemed to require the most analysis, was aided by specific terms of Wal-Mart’s fair-employment standards and related supplier agreements, under which Wal-Mart reserved the right to inspect and verify compliance, but undertook no express promise or obligation to actually do so.  (Doe v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 9th Cir. No. 0855706, July 10, 2009)

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