Walmart: A Beacon of Sexism

January 18, 2011
I know many of you are probably wondering, Walmart? How can Walmart be sexist? It’s Walmart. Like…Walmart. Family store. Family-owned. But yes, Walmart can indeed be very sexist, in the form of workplace discrimination against women.

A few weeks ago, a US district judge ruled for the sex discrimination lawsuit against Walmart to go on to the Supreme Court. This lawsuit began in 2001, when six current and former female employees of Walmart’s enterprises asserted that Walmart is prejudiced against women workers in pay and promotions. The Supreme Court will decide whether or not they will consider this as a class-action suit, as two lower federal courts have supported. Because Walmart claims that they have too many stores and too many different management methods for it to be possible for a class to sue, the plaintiffs will have to prove that they were all treated relatively similarly by Walmart.

If successful, the amount of women included in this class-action suit has been estimated as anywhere between 5 million and 1.6 million, despite the fact that the judge ruled that former employees cannot be included. (This reminds me of Lilly Ledbetter so much it hurts.) It’s important for it to become a class-action suit because that way, it becomes easier for the little people to sue the big bad store that’s mistreated them.

The evidence against Walmart? 65% of hourly employees are female, but only 33% are management level employees. Sam’s Club employees say that their managers often referred to women workers as “girls” or “little Janie Q’s.” (I couldn’t quite figure out what a little Janie Q is. If anyone knows, please leave a comment.)

Walmart’s sexism is far from new, however; NOW has criticized the store for the pay and promotion discrepancies, in addition to the exclusion of contraceptive coverage in insurance plans, violations of child labor laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and homophobic discrimination. NOW also added Walmart as a Merchant of Shame, and has staged several protests against it. I also want to mention that Walmart carries multiple lines of Hannah Montana merchandise. While the teenage feminist community is rather split about whether Miley Cyrus is an icon of all that is sexist or empowered, I’m personally of the opinion that she’s a plain old bad role model that is given to our girls, and am not happy that Walmart agrees to sell her merch.

I just have to hope that Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Ginsburg vote in favor of the class-action suit, and that at least two of the other justices vote along with them. Unfortunately, we have a while to wait, since they won’t even hear the case until the spring, and their decision won’t be public until June. Ginsburg was in the dissenting opinion in the Ledbetter case, so at least we know we have at least one ally on the Supreme Court.





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