Walmart, the US-based multinational retail corporation operating a chain of departmental stores, hypermarkets and grocery stores, is the world’s second largest public corporation. The corporation has faced the brunt of workplace prejudice allegations. Six women who worked for Walmart have sued the company for inferior pay packages and promotion scope as compared to their male counterparts; despite having better qualification, performance, and experience. According to these women’s 2010 court of appeals opinion, they were paid lesser than their male counterparts and had to wait comparatively long for a promotion to an in-store management position. They demanded that Walmart must compensate their female workers who had been employed in the company since December 21, 1998 and were subjected to sexual discrimination.
The lawsuit claimed that:
The six women who had filed the lawsuit over discrimination and hired Richard Drogin, a professor at California State University and a statistician, to make a critical analysis of all employee records. According to Drogin, the scope for women to be promoted from an assistant manager to a store manager was 10.12 years, while for men it was 8.64 years. Also, women were found to be better performers than their male counterparts. According to a scale of 1-7, where 1 is low and 7 is high; the male employees got 3.68 and female employees got a 3.75.
Drogin’s research in 1996 revealed that female employees were paid $0.35 less per hour than men. This pay gap increased to $1.16 per hour by 2001.
They also hired Marc Bendick, a labor economist. Bendick noticed that the company had no problems while promoting women in its management. But while other companies had 56.5% of women in the management, Walmart had only 34.5%.
Another professor the six women had hired was William T. Bielby from the University of California. In his analysis and report of the company’s hiring practices, he revealed that the company’s managers weren’t provided with any written policies to recruit candidates on the basis of minimum promotion criteria and set salaries. Therefore, gender labels continually impacted the decision-making process. Further, it was found that women were not evaluated based on their skill set. Instead, they were assessed based on their manager’s orthodox thoughts about them.
Bielby also revealed that managers at the company believed that women were equally qualified as their male counterparts for management positions. Therefore, the discrimination against female employees was due to individual decisions of managers and the company was not responsible. He also revealed that Walmart was striving to ensure that all their employees get equal work opportunities.
Arturo Mireles, a store manager, revealed that he took promotion decisions of Department Managers or Support Managers by using various subjective matters, including teamwork and ethics, as he does not have any written guideline to make the decision. Moreover, the company’s policy does not highlight when and how to modify the payment and check how many employees received a pay hike.
The Company’s Perspective
The case amassed a vast number of women from multiple areas with the similar complaints of gender discrimination. According to the company’s lawyer, there was a big group of injured female employees to take care of and each one of them had a different experience of injury with the company, which was unlike the case initially brought up by the six women.
The company also reported that they used various systems for compensating and promoting their employees. However, decisions related to wages and payments were based on individual managers, as there was no uniform company policy. The company also claimed that they organized several programs to ensure equal facilities for every employee irrespective of their gender and race.
In April 2010, the case finally received a class action and after 8 months, the Supreme Court decided to hear the case and take the decision that would affect the fate of 1.5 million female Walmart employees and the company’s material finances. During the late March 2011, Court heard the first oral arguments. On 20 June 2011, the Court issued its ruling, reverting the ruling of the court of appeals.
In October 2011, the plaintiffs reopened their complaint with the federal court in San Francisco. This time, they claimed gender bias on behalf of the employees in California. Again in June 2012, about two thousand female workers of Walmart brought discrimination charges against the company to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, through an order in August 2013, the US federal court denied the women class certification. It was finally decided that every woman must pursue individual claims against the company.
This issue brought a world of change to the company. There used to be no written antidiscrimination policy in the company, which ultimately led to tons of misconceptions. To prevent such issues and lawsuits, the company finally came up with a written antidiscrimination policy.