September 17, 2019

Walmart Inc likely discriminated against 178 female workers by paying them less, denying them promotions or both, because of their gender, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in memos seen by Reuters.

The agency urged Walmart and the women who filed complaints to come to a “just resolution,” which could include a settlement and changes to Walmart’s employment practices, after finding “reasonable cause” to believe there was gender discrimination. The memos were issued in July and viewed by Reuters on Tuesday after they were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart is the world’s largest retailer and the largest private employer in the U.S. with a workforce of 1.5 million.

Joseph Sellers, a lawyer for the women, said there were at least 1,600 similar complaints pending at the EEOC, accusing Walmart of discriminating against women in pay and promotions between 1999 and 2011. About 150 lawsuits against Walmart, covering the same time period, were pending in federal courts across the country, he said.

Sellers, who represented Walmart workers in that case, said the memos issued in July involve women who worked at Walmart stores in over 30 states. That suggests a broad pattern of pay discrimination rather than isolated instances that could be attributed to local managers, Sellers said.

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