Nonetheless, the company allegedly refuses to reimburse the female drivers for the cost of purchasing women’s pants and for the cost of laundering them, as it does for the drivers who wear company-provided men’s pants. The effect of this policy is much the same as an unpaid wage claim. Workers who refuse to wear uniform pants are subject to immediate termination.
An attorney for Webb has acknowledged that "It's not a lot of money,” but he argues that, “if you're making the women pay it and not making the men pay it, that's not fair.” The law requires Walmart to "treat the men and the women the same and that's all we're asking for." The “pants problem” seems to be yet another example of the petty discrimination and harassment women may face as they move into occupations previously dominated by men.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII protects employees against discrimination based on certain specified characteristics, which include: race, color, national origin, sex, and religion. Under the law, an employer may not discriminate with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. Areas that may give rise to violations include recruiting, hiring, promoting, transferring, training, disciplining, discharging, assigning work, measuring performance, or providing benefits.
On its face, Webb’s complaint seems to make a plausible argument concerning discrimination in the terms,conditions and privileges of employment. The threat of termination that hangs over drivers who do not wear approved uniform pants seems particularly compelling.
Webb said that she complained to her supervisors and HR multiple times before filing the lawsuit, but they did not take action or reimburse her for the multiple pairs of pants and shorts that she had bought to wear for work. In October 2021, prior to filing her federal lawsuit, Webb brought a claim before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was given a Right to Sue Letter, thus clearing the way for her federal lawsuit.
She seeks to represent all females who were employed by Walmart, Inc. from July 20, 2020 to the present, who were required to wear male uniform pants or shorts as a condition of employment or, alternatively purchase their own. She believes that there will be at least 100 women included in the class.
Walmart’s history of employment discrimination against women
This is not Walmart’s first brush with Title VII. In February 2022, the EEOC charged that a Walmart store in Iowa violated federal law when it gave a Black female employee an unsanitary lactation space based upon her race and failed to promote her based on sex stereotypes about mothers with small children.
In 2021, Walmart agreed to pay $410,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the EEOC. According to the lawsuit, from 2014 to 2018 a male employee of Walmart’s store in Geneva, N.Y., regularly made unwelcome sexual comments and advances to female co-workers and touched female co-workers without their consent. The EEOC alleged that Walmart management knew of the conduct for years, including having received written complaints.
Earlier, in 2020, the company agreed to pay $20 million, stop using a pre-employment test, and furnish other relief to settle a companywide, sex-based hiring discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. Walmart allegedly conducted a physical ability test as a requirement for applicants to be hired as order fillers at Walmart’s grocery distribution centers nationwide. The EEOC said the test disproportionately excluded female applicants from jobs as grocery order fillers.