Smithville Walmart Employee Claims Discrimination in Lawsuit

October 9, 2012
Dwayne Page
Smithville Walmart Employee Claims Discrimination in Lawsuit

A Cookeville woman, who works as an invoice associate at the Smithville Walmart store, is one three Tennessee women suing Walmart. Shawn Gibbons, like the other two women, is claiming she "was discriminated against because of my gender in both pay and promotions".

Gibbons alleges in the lawsuit filed Tuesday, October 2 in U.S. District Court that she was paid less than men who performed the same jobs and that she has been denied entry into the management trainee program.

Gibbons' complaint states as follows "On or about October 1993, I started working as an Associate at the Cookeville store. On or about September 2001, I transferred to the store in Athens, Alabama. In June 2003, I was transferred to the store in Sparta as an instock Guarantor. In October 2003, I was then transferred to the store in Algood and in January 2004, I was transferred to the store in Huntsville, Alabama. In March, 2004, I was transferred back to the store in Algood as an Office Associate/Instock Guarantor. Throughout the rest of 2004 until October 2006, I traveled for weeks at a time in many stores throughout Tennessee, such as Ashland City, Camden, Soddy Daisy, Athens, Jamestown, Cookeville, and Jacksboro. In October, 2006, I transferred to the store in Smithville as an Office Associate, where I am currently employed. Prior to starting at Wal-Mart, I had six years of retail experience working for Roses stores and Kmart."

"During the eight years I was in the Cookeville store, it was my understanding that the male employees were often paid more than women. Several different men who spoke with me told me that they made between $1.00 and $2.00 more per hour than I was making, even though they had the same jobs. There are males that have been with the company less than five years and they make almost as much as I do even though I have been with the company almost 18 years. When I asked management about the discrepancies in pay, they just brushed me off and told me that they were not allowed to discuss pay. It was also much more difficult for women to get merit raises than it was for men, who seemed to get them easily. When women wanted a merit raise, it would be for 25 or 50 cents. Men could simply request a raise and their pay would be increased by up to two dollars at a time. From my experience at Wal-Mart, I believe that the disparity in pay that I witnessed is part of a broader pattern or practice of denial of equal pay to women in my store, district, and region. I believe that this unfair disparity in pay lasted for the duration of my employment with Wal-Mart."

"On or about 1995, I became a Department Manager in the Floral Department of the Cookeville store. In 1999, I first tried to get into the Management Training Program. Management told me and several other women who were also interested that we needed to have more experience as department managers before we would be eligible. At the time I started with Wal-Mart, I already had six years of retail experience, and by the time I applied for the Management Training Program, I had been a department manager for at least four years, having managed both the Floral Department and the Garden Center. Further, I had helped with multiple store set-ups, remodels, and relocations. All this was not enough, according to the District Manager, to qualify me for the program. Male applicants, however, never seemed to have a problem being accepted into the program even without these qualifications. Nine times out of ten, all the available spots in the program were filled with males. Some of the successful male candidates had only two years of experience at Wal-Mart and no prior retail experience. Even though the District Manager told me I didn't have enough experience to be accepted into the program, he accepted three males with less experience than I had. I again applied to enter the Management Training Program in 2003, and was once more deterred by the District Manager. He explained to me that I would have to accept a $2,000 pay cut in order to enter the program. Even though I had been a loyal and hardworking employee of Wal-Mart for ten years and had won several awards for improving the sales of the departments I was managing, I was told I would have to accept a lower pay rate, comparable to male employees with significantly less experience and tenure that were just starting in the program. By 2006, I had requested many times to be entered into the Management Training Program and had become so frustrated with the process that I gave up applying. To further illustrate how Wal-Mart discriminated against me with respect to promotions, my current store manager, was previously my associate in Cookeville. He had a college degree and was allowed to move up in the company while I was not. Through all the years, I have worked at Wal-Mart, all but one store manager has been male. I believe that I, and other female employees who were similarly situated, have been discriminated against because of our sex in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended."

This lawsuit is the third of its kind against Walmart in the country in the past year. The U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a class action lawsuit in 2011 representing 1.6 million women who worked at Walmart on the grounds that their allegations were too varied to show the company engaged in a specific nationwide pattern and practice of gender bias.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told the AP that the company has strong policies banning discrimination. "As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the individual situations are so different and because the claims of these three people are not representative of the hundreds of thousands of women who work at Walmart," Hargrove told the AP.

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