Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has been forced to pay $11m (£5.8m) in civil penalties to the US government to settle charges that it employed illegal immigrants to clean some of its stores.
The payment is the largest federal fine paid by the company and comes at a time when the employment practices of the largest US private employer are facing public scrutiny.
The settlement follows a federal grand jury investigation into the company’s use of contractors employing illegal workers, which culminated in raids on 61 stores in October 2003 and the arrest of more than 250 illegal immigrants.
Wal-Mart had said it did not know the contractors were employing illegal immigrants.
The company has been attempting to improve its image on employment issues in recent months, partly to counter a nationwide class-action suit alleging that it systematically discriminates against female workers.
Lee Scott, its chief executive, has been running advertisements in national newspapers this year and launching a website to address criticisms.