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Walmart’s (WMT) female truck drivers must either go to work wearing company-provided men’s pants, or pay to buy and launder their own uniform-compliant garments, according to a new lawsuit filed in federal court in Alabama.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission gave Alabama driver Diana Webb approval to file the proposed class action claiming sex discrimination against similarly situated female Walmart drivers, after the agency said it would not proceed further with its investigation.
“I believe Walmart is discriminating against female truck drivers, and possibly other female employees who are required to wear uniforms,” Webb wrote in her Oct. 5 complaint to the EEOC.
“Walmart is providing and cleaning uniform bottoms for the men, while the women are expected to either wear men’s bottoms, or purchase and clean women’s bottoms on their own.”
Webb has worked for Walmart as a driver since July 20, 2020, the lawsuit states.
According to the complaint, drivers on the job who fail to wear clothing authorized by the company’s uniform policy can be fired right away. Walmart does provide its drivers with an entire uniform that includes pants and shirts, the suit states; however, the lawsuit says male pants are the only type of bottoms offered to drivers, regardless of their gender.
“For female drivers, it is impossible to wear the men’s pants provided by Walmart specifically made to fit only male employees due to anatomical differences between the sexes,” the complaint states. “Female drivers are therefore required to either suffer discomfort, or purchase and launder their own pants, out of their own pocket, with no option for reimbursement, in order to fulfill Walmart’s employment requirements."
Webb also alleges that she requested that Walmart reimburse her for her out-of-pocket expenses to purchase multiple pairs of female pants and shorts to wear for work. Supervisors, she alleges, denied the request. Walmart will not launder any pants worn by female drivers that the company didn't provide, Webb adds, and therefore females, and not males, must incur the expense of washing their own uniform pants.
In response to the lawsuit, Walmart's senior director of media relations, Randy Hargrove, issued a statement to Yahoo Finance.
"Walmart is committed to providing our private fleet drivers with various clothing options to meet our guidelines. No associate, male or female, is required to wear company provided pants," the statement said. "Months before the lawsuit was filed, Ms. Webb was fitted for company provided pants which she now has. We continue to review our clothing offerings for male and female drivers. We take these allegations seriously and will respond in court as appropriate."
Webb’s claim says in treating male and female employees differently, Walmart is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits gender-based discrimination. In addition, the claim alleges that the company is unjustly enriching itself by sidestepping the expenses shouldered by its female drivers.
As compensation, Webb is asking the court to disgorge Walmart of expenses it saved by allegedly discriminating against female drivers, to compensate drivers for their expenditures on purchasing and laundering their own uniform-compliant pants, and to award punitive damages.
Alexis Keenan is a legal reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow Alexis on Twitter @alexiskweed.