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Wal-Mart Still a Merchant of Shame

Seven women last Monday filed for class-action status in their lawsuit against their employer, the world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart. The federal court filing, which alleges systematic sex discrimination in unequal pay, promotion, and training, could potentially balloon the case Dukes v. Wal-Mart to include more than 1.5 million current and former female workers employed at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club since December 26, 1998-making it the largest employment discrimination case in history, according to Law.com. The class certification court hearing is set for July 25.

In court documents revealed last week, hundreds of women submitted testimony, depicting an environment where women were refused training and employment in “male” departments; women were required to join male coworkers on business trips to strip clubs and Hooters restaurants; and women were paid less for comparable work, because their male counterparts had “[families] to support,” according to Newsday. When pressed about company business meetings at Hooters, Wal-Mart executive vice president of human resources Coleman Peterson told Women’s Enews, “it is conceivable in some small town that Hooters is kind of like the restaurant du jour, okay… and that it is viewed as one of the most elegant and really one of the best places to meet and eat.”

Women comprise 72 percent of Wal-Mart employees but account for only a third of its managers, according to a study by economist Marc Bendick. The same study noted that competing retailers staff women in half of their managing positions. Wal-Mart is the most-sued company in the nation-facing class action lawsuits filed in over 30 states, according to the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Newsday. Charges against the company run the gamut, ranging from allegations of gender discrimination to federal overtime law violations to coercive anti-union practices.

The Feminist Majority Foundation joins the NOW, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), NOW, and other progressive organizations in protesting Wal-Mart’s egregious employee policies.

Sources:

Mother Jones Mar/Apr 2003; Law.com 4/30/03; Reuters 4/29/03; LA Times 4/28/03; Newsday 5/1/03; CBS News 4/29/03; Feminist Daily News Wire

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