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Friday, March 25, 2011

Shocking Statistics Demonstrate Extent of Nationwide Sexism at Wal-Mart

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a sex discrimination class action against the retail giant, on March 29. AFJ’s Justice Watch blog will highlight specific aspects of the case in daily installments between now and the date of oral arguments. Today we discuss the overwhelming statistical evidence that demonstrates the degree to which women are denied opportunities for advancement at Wal-Mart.

At the time this lawsuit was filed in 2001, Wal-Mart divided the United States into 41 regions. Each region contained approximately 11 districts, and each district contained six to eight stores. Overall, there were more than 3,000 stores. The lawsuit also includes Sam’s Club, which is wholly owned and run by Wal-Mart.

Plaintiff’s statistical expert, Dr. Richard Drogin, found that women employees at Wal-Mart were paid less than men in every year, and in virtually every job, even when relevant non-discriminatory factors were considered. This pattern was found in every one of the 41 Wal-Mart regions. Moreover, the disparity in pay between comparably employed women and men has increased every year since 1997. Strikingly, this disparity exists despite the fact that women, on average, have longer tenure at Wal-Mart – 4.47 years v. 3.13 years – and higher performance ratings.

The following table demonstrates the pay and promotion differential for field management positions and the three largest hourly job categories in 2001, the year this lawsuit was filed.

Click to enlarge

The massive disparities between men and women in these statistics support a prima facie case of employment discrimination. One reason for this is the stark break between hourly department managers, the vast majority of whom are women, and the next management level up, where employees are trained for salaried management positions. (See the entries above and below the black line in the table.) To move upward, an employee at Wal-Mart needs to receive a discretionary “tap on the shoulder” from upper-level management, which is overwhelmingly male. Women cannot apply for this promotion. Overall, if plaintiffs’ class certification is upheld, they will have a strong case of pattern-or-practice or disparate impact discrimination.

Indeed, Wal-Mart has among the worst records of American retailers in the percentage of women in management, prompting the company’s Executive Vice President for People to say that “we are behind the rest of the world.” Wal-Mart had a far lower percentage of female managers in 2001 than their closest competitors had in 1975. When this lawsuit was filed, women comprised 34.5 percent of Wal-Mart’s managers, compared to 56.5 percent of comparable retailers’ managers. One of plaintiffs’ experts put the odds that this discrepancy can be explained by chance as “less than one chance in many billions.”

Plaintiffs’ statistics demonstrate a clear pattern of nationwide discrimination that demands class certification in this case.

Click here to read more about this landmark case and download AFJ's comprehensive analysis.


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