Fired Wal-Mart Exec Strikes Back, Claims 'Smear Tactic'

Julie Roehm, the former Wal-Mart marketing executive who was fired for allegedly having an affair with her subordinate, is striking back.

Accusing the world's biggest retailer of pursuing Roehm in a "vindictive and mean-spirited fashion," her lawyers charge that Wal-Mart's counterclaim, which includes the e-mail evidence, is "nothing more than a smear tactic."

The statement from attorneys John F. Schaefer and B. Andrew Rifkin goes on to accuse Wal-Mart of taking portions of the e-mails out of context and "putting its own spin on them to create sensationalism. It is a shame that Wal-Mart's repudiation of change -- and its determination to legitimize its old ways of doing business by purging the advocates of change -- has turned in such an ugly and hostile direction."

Wal-Mart's counterclaim was filed last week in response to Roehm's lawsuit against the company, which she pursued shortly after getting fired in December.

A Woman Scorned

A woman scorned and the havoc she wreaks is a persistent theme in literature and life.

From Medea and Roxie Hart to Britney Spears and Jennifer Aniston, those women who are spurned by their lovers and who go on to get their revenge become iconic characters.

Add Shelley Womack to the list. She's the spurned wife who teamed with Wal-Mart to punish one of the retailing giant's top executives.

The e-mails that Womack discovered on husband Sean Womack's home computer are some of the key pieces of evidence in Wal-Mart's counterclaim against former marketing exec Julie Roehm.

Some of the buttoned-down retailer's evidence of an alleged affair between Sean Womack and Roehm consists of racy e-mails between the co-workers. One of Roehm's romantic messages: "I hate not being able to call you or write you. I think about us together all of the time. Little moments like watching your face when you kiss me."

Last December, Roehm was fired by the company and she promptly sued them, claiming that it failed to give her severance and didn't return some personal belongings. Monday, the company struck back with its countersuit, alleging that Roehm had a romantic relationship with Sean Womack, who was her subordinate, and showed favoritism to an ad agency competing for a $580 million account with Wal-Mart.

The evidence threatens to undo Roehm's case, in which she has consistently denied having had a romance with Womack, which would be a clear breach of Wal-Mart's policies.

And how did Wal-Mart get its hands on some of the semi-salacious e-mails? Shelley Womack.

Last Sept. 7, she learned that her husband "had set up a secret, personal e-mail account that he used to communicate with Roehm," according to the counterclaim, which describes scenes that belong more in a daytime soap opera than a legal document. When she started reading some of the romantic e-mails, Shelley called Sean and "demanded that he come home immediately."

When he got home, Shelley confronted him with a printout of one of the e-mails. Sean tried to grab it away from her and "when Shelley went to another part of the house to hide the printed material, he went to the computer and attempted to delete all the e-mail messages from his account," according to the counterclaim.

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