Fifty members of Congress want Wal-Mart to disclose data about the wages they pay their workers, to see if a pattern of gender discrimination exists. The Congressional delegation, led by Congressman Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, sent a letter to Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott asking for the data that Wal-Mart has given to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Wal-Mart is already engaged in what could become the costliest gender discrimination lawsuit in the history of American retailing. “It is of great concern to us that Wal-Mart, America’s largest employer, does not pay its women the same wage as men for the same work,” the Congressional letter said. The lawmakers cited research done by Richard Drogin, a California State University professor, which shows Wal-Mart paid its female hourly workers 40 cents less per hour than their male counterparts, and paid its female managers nearly $5,000 per year less than male managers. The Congressional letter asserts that women make up 72 % of Wal-Mart’s workforce — almost 700,000 employees overall — but account for only 15% of its store managers. Wal-Mart told reporters the statistics in the letter were “false and incorrect.” Drogin’s research was a key part of the lawsuit, Duke vs. Wal-Mart Stores, which was filed in April 2003. Wal-Mart counters that 40% of its managers are female, and 60% of its workers are women.
This Congressional letter does not have any legal force behind it, and Wal-Mart is not expected to reply to the letter with any new data. But the letter continues to show legislators’ discomfort with the Wal-Mart business model, and puts increasing pressure on the company to defend itself publicly. For earlier stories on this subject, search this database by “gender”.