Beginning next week, Walmart will go before the Supreme Court to defend itself in the largest class action sexual discrimination lawsuit in history. Walmart is accused of allegedly paying female employees less and favoring male employees for promotions at its 3,400 big box stores nationwide.
Cue the shrieks of “But-but-but women take time off to have babies! And to have their period!!!” that, without fail, ring out in a chorus to justify pay discrimination. Alas, lawyers for Walmart and Sam’s Club warned Walmart Stores Inc. back in 1995 that a sexual discrimination lawsuit would be on the horizon, when it found men earned 19 percent more than women in some positions and were five-and-a-half times more likely to be promoted. According to The Los Angeles Times, a statistician hired by the plaintiffs’ lawyer found “women make up about two-thirds of the hourly employees but fewer than 14 percent of store managers.” And, surprise surprise, here the lawsuit is! Walmart Stores Inc. will not only have to explain allegations of inequity in pay and promotion, but what the LA Times called “a male-dominated culture.” Testimony gleaned by the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Brad Seligman, will say managers referred to female employees as “girls,” went to strip clubs together, and held meetings at Hooters. Klassy.
If one of the biggest, wealthiest companies in America was paying whites better than blacks, or promoting whites over Latinos, everyone would be up in arms. Where’s the outrage over almost two million current and former female employees whose families, educations, credit scores and retirement funds have been forever impacted by unequal pay? I suspect some liberals and/or “coastal elites” don’t care because (sneer) it’s Walmart. And I suspect everyone else doesn’t care because this effects low-income women, who are repeatedly screwed by American society.
But this is huge. Huge, people. I, for one, will be watching intently (in part because, according to Reuters, the upshot of the Walmart class action lawsuit is expected to have implications for a similar one facing Costco, another big box chain store). And even if Walmart does win this round (they are expected to try to dismantle the “class action” aspect of the lawsuit by arguing that different employees from different stores in different areas of the country are too diverse to constitute a “class”), I’ll be fascinated to see how the company would fare in individual sexual discrimination lawsuits by the plaintiffs.
P.S. If any Frisky readers are past or current Walmart employees, or know someone who is, we would be curious to hear about your experiences in the comments.