Two complaints filed in the Southern District of Florida allege Florida-based Walmart stores discriminated against female employees, paying them less, withholding pay increases and bypassing them for managerial promotions given to their male counterparts.
Both suits charge Walmart with several violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the premise of their race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. In total, they list nearly 100 female plaintiffs.
These latest complaints against Walmart follow a November 2017 suit filed in the Southern District of Florida, alleging disparate treatment of female employees.
Accusations of gender bias have trailed Walmart in court for nearly two decades. In 2001, for instance, store greeter Betty Dukes filed suit, accusing the world’s largest retail chain of gender discrimination. Dukes’ class action ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which dismissed it for being too expansive.
“The U.S. Supreme Court said the class action was inappropriate for a case so large,” said Cathleen Scott, an employment and civil rights attorney based in Jupiter. Scott, who is representing the plaintiffs in all three actions against Walmart in the Southern District of Florida, explained regional suits against the company began to take form after Dukes’ case was dismissed. However, “procedural delays and appeals,” as well as the procurement of right-to-sue letters from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission slowed the litigation.
“Our women have been wanting and waiting to go forward for years,” Scott said. “Even though they’re individual claims, they support a very common story of systemic discrimination throughout Walmart, as it relates to pay and promotion.”
Read one of the complaints:
According to Scott, Walmart’s policies are deeply rooted in gender stereotypes that even determine where employees might be assigned in a store.
“When a female applies for a position, (she) might be placed as a cashier or in the lingerie and cosmetics departments,” Scott said. “In comparison, when men apply for a position, they’re allowed to get a high-grossing department like sports or electronics.” Adding that “it’s hard to go from cashier to store manager,” Scott said many female Walmart employees allege they’re prevented from pursuing promotional opportunities from the moment they’re hired.
In a statement Friday, Walmart said it “has had a strong policy against discrimination in place for many years,” and that the company is “a great place for women to work and advance.”
“The allegations from these plaintiffs are not representative of the positive experiences that millions of women have had working at Walmart,” the statement read. “We’ve said all along that if someone believes they have been treated unfairly, they deserve to have their timely, individual claims heard in court. We plan to defend the company against these claims.”
Scott said she and her co-counsel are ”prepared to do what it takes” to secure a legal victory for their clients.
“My firm’s a civil rights firm, so we have a lot of energy and passion for these types of cases,” she said. “Our clients have waited almost a decade to have their cases heard. They’re looking forward to the opportunity to finally get some justice.”