Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is currently entangled in a legal battle that will decide if the company has engaged willfully in gender-based discrimination. Underlying causes, organizational culture and ethical issues will be examined in determining how the largest private employer in the United States could have fallen prey to unfair labor practices.
"In 1999, women constituted 72% of Wal-Mart's hourly employees, but only 33% of its managerial employees" (Bhatnagar, 2004). This fact and many others are the reasons many people allege that Wal-Mart has unfair labor practices. The Dukes v. Wal-Mart case challenged the hiring, promotion and pay practices of Wal-Mart. The case was filed in June 2001. When the case reached class certification status it became the largest class action civil rights suit against employment discrimination in American history. The case represented approximately 1.6 million women that had worked for Wal-Mart from 1998 to 2001 who felt that they had been discriminated against because of their gender.
Many women involved in the Dukes case alleged that Wal-Mart's policies vary from gender to gender. The managerial staff is comprised mostly of men. The relocation policy in place has a distinct impact on female employees. To become a manager, one must relocate multiple times at each management level. Female employees claimed that this could potentially have a disparate impact on single and married mothers, therefore the policy is not fair to all; favoring the chances of a male getting a promotion over a female.
According to the Berkeley Women's Law Journal (2004), Wal-Mart pays its employees about one-third less than what similarly unionized employees earn. Wal-Mart's slogan is "Everyday low prices," and they accomplish this by keeping wages low and by suppressing any efforts made by unions to unionize Wal-Mart. In addition to paying low wages, some Wal-Mart stores allegedly violate the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulates overtime pay and child labor standards. Many employees have claimed that Wal-Mart makes them work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay. When management realized how much overtime pay they were logging, they would call in managers to adjust the time sheets. An internal audit exposed the violations of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
Many of the facts stated in the Dukes case were alleged by employees and were not always seen within all Wal-Mart stores or by the public. Employee Cleo Page actually experienced the effects of Wal-Mart's unethical labor practices. Ms. Page began working for Wal-Mart as a cashier in one of their super centers in Tulsa, OK making $6.50/hr. Page resigned from her job three years later from a store in California where she was making $10/hr. Over the three years of employment, she received above standard evaluations, but despite her desire for advancement, she was passed over twice for promotions by less qualified male applicants. Page had also encountered other women who had similar experiences, some who were in the same position for eight years. Three years of earning low wages adversely affected Page's financial situation. She had little savings and as a result, she lost her house in California in addition to the foster children she was caring for. Page declared that she would not have lost her home and children if she had been given the well deserved promotion. The promotion came with many great incentives and better bonuses. This alone would have improved her financial situation.
Wal-Mart is the largest retail store in the United States. The root cause of the problem with Wal-Mart is that they try to increase their profits by minimizing their costs. Many internal policies are used to maintain this philosophy. First and foremost is the strong organizational culture that is dictated from the home offices. Store level managers receive discipline ranging from written...
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