Right now, Wal-Mart is the most successful retailer in the world. Its ability to make money and grow in size is incomparable in its industry. Wal-Mart did not get to this point through equal treatment of employees and fair business practices, however. The Wal-Mart empire thrives on destroying small-town America and offering little in return to the many employees whose hard work helps bring this company success. As if that isn’t bad enough, it is now facing a nationwide lawsuit for sexual discrimination.
According to walmartclass.com, there are 115 women who worked at 184 different stores in 30 different states who are willing to testify against the retail giant. This Web site offers information to any current or former female Wal-Mart employee who has experienced a “glass ceiling” or has been made to feel inferior at her job. The lawsuit involves women who have “been denied positions, seen newly hired men promoted over them, been denied equal pay or been retaliated against for complaining about discrimination,” according to the Web site.
From this Web site I also learned that the large group of women and a legal team are waiting to hear if their suit will be granted class-action status. If federal Judge Martin Jenkins approves it, this could be the biggest sexual discrimination lawsuit ever made against a corporation. If it gains class-action status, 1.5 million women who have worked for the company since Dec. 26, 1998, will be covered. This class-action status takes root in the average pay of store employees, which is around one dollar more for males in the same positions, with equal or lesser experience than their female counterparts.
The discrimination against females at Wal-Mart involves more than just pay and opportunity differences. According to Ms. Magazine, women have been subjected to an oppressive sexual climate and demeaning commentary.
Complaints brought against the retail giant span from sexual to just plain sexist. One woman complained a stripper was hired to perform at a store meeting for a male manager’s birthday. A corporate employee recalled being forced to meet her male business associates at Hooters for business lunches. Another former employee reported being told she and other females didn’t need top pay or the first pick for promotions because women don’t need the money as badly; their husbands should support them. Am I mistaken, or does that sound like a comment that belongs in 1950?
I know there was once a time when most jobs were primarily filled by men. Fifty years ago, there were few jobs that had men and women working alongside one another on the same tasks. A woman in upper management was surely a rarity, but women desired the means to provide for themselves and their families or simply achieve some self-worth, and they fought to change this. I don’t want to think that all that fighting was in vain.
Men are not the primary breadwinners for most households. With the high number of single mothers and the poor economy, this is no longer practical. The idea that women do not deserve equal pay because their husbands are the primary breadwinners is ridiculous. We’re not just working for spending money.
With all of the 21st century advancements we have made toward equality, it is aggravating that these practices persist and that Wal-Mart is just another boys’ club. For the sake of all women, I hope this lawsuit gains class-action status and makes an example out of them. Despite the image of equality this country would like to portray, I’m sure this type of discrimination happens all the time. Women are not the only people who have to worry about on-the-job discrimination.
Some may feel this issue does not affect them because they do not see themselves ever working at Wal-Mart. This lawsuit could possibly influence the practices of numerous businesses, though. If it is shown there are consequences for this antiquated attitude toward women in the workplace, others will be less likely to allow it to persist in their workplace. For the sake of all the women and minorities who’ve fought for equality at work, I suggest to stop supporting this retailer. It affects all of us.
Gaia Veenis, The Daily Aztec, San Diego State University.