Walmart received a perfect 100 in HRC’s new 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), but the LGBT advocacy group is retracting that score amid employee complaints of harassment and discrimination.
The penalty marks only the second time in the 16-year history of the CEI that a company’s rating has been suspended.
Multiple investigations by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “pointed to significant enforcement gaps in Wal-Mart’s non-discrimination policy, specifically with regards to sex and gender identity,” HRC noted in its 2018 CEI report. “Pending remedial steps by the company, [Walmart’s] CEI rating is suspended.”
Those investigations include allegations from Charlene Bost, a trans woman who claimed she was harassed, unfairly disciplined, and eventually fired by superiors at the Sam’s Club location in North Carolina. (Sam’s Club is a chain of membership-only retail warehouses owned and operated by Walmart since 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton.)
The EEOC ruled that Bost’s treatment qualified as unlawful and that firing her violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (it is illegal to fire someone for filing an employment discrimination case.)
Another trans woman claimed she was harassed and intimidated by superiors at her job at a Sam’s Club in Florida. Again, the EEOC ruled in her favor.
Both cases will now move forward to litigation in federal court.
“We’re disappointed with the HRC’s decision to temporarily suspend our score, which was going to be rated at 100 percent for the second year in a row,” a representative from Walmart saidin a statement. “While we respect the HRC’s work, we are confident in Walmart’s leading practices that support our LGBT communities and look forward to further educating them on our policies.”
In a statement, the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is representing both plaintiffs, said that “good corporate policy must be matched by a commitment to enforcement.”
“Sometimes, as with Walmart, the corporate policy does not necessarily reach to the shop floor, leaving transgender and other LGBT employees vulnerable to severe and pervasive harassment and discrimination.”
The CEI evaluates LGBT-focused policies and practices at corporations doing business in the U.S., including the Fortune 500, the AmLaw 200 top law firms, and hundreds of publicly and privately held mid- to large-sized businesses. Criteria include non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs and public engagement with the LGBT community.
More than 600 major businesses received perfect scores in the 2018 CEI report, include Apple, Royal Caribbean, Viacom, Amazon and American Airlines.