Just before the end of 2013, the Seattle Times reported that Costco reached a tentative settlement in a lawsuit with some of its female employees. The lawsuit originated with a single employee and later became a class action encompassing many female employees. After nearly a decade, the parties appear to have reached an agreement.
The Lawsuit & Settlement
In 2002, Shirley Ellis filed her initial discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Two years later she filed her lawsuit, which became a class action five years after. In her lawsuit, she claimed Costco denied her promotions because she is a woman. Recently, after months of negotiations, the parties filed their current settlement with the court and await the court’s approval.
Under the settlement’s tentative terms, those women wrongly denied promotions to assistant general manager could receive up to $150,000, while those wrongly denied promotions to general manager
could receive up to $300,000. Furthermore, current employees may also be eligible for payments related to their wrongfully denied promotions, though the amount is significantly smaller. In total, if the settlement is approved, Costco could pay up to $8 million for its discriminatory promotion procedures.
Additionally, Costco will change its promotion methods to avoid potential discrimination in the future. The settlement describes the steps Costco will take for improving its procedures including: a new posting system for assistant general manager and general manager positions, as well as a method for indicating interest in said promotions.
Filing Workplace Discrimination Complaints
Gender or sex discrimination occurs in more than just obscene gestures and comments that create a hostile workplace. For instance, a female employee not receiving an invitation to a seminar because it is assumed that she would not be interested or available to attend due to family obligations could be considered discriminatory.
If an individual believes that they been discriminated against, they have 180 days after the discriminatory action occurred to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. They have the same six months to file a claim under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination. Filing on a state level will automatically file with the EEOC, if the complaint relates to federal employment laws as well. Prior to filing a lawsuit, one must file a complaint with the EEOC or a similar agency so that an investigation can occur. Once the initial investigation is completed, there are two possible outcomes. The first occurs if the investigation does not find any violations, in which case the agency will give the individual a notice allowing the individual to pursue legal action or not. The second outcome occurs when potential violations are found, and the agency will assist in either settling the complaint or possibly filing the lawsuit itself.
If you have been denied a proportion or suffered other forms of discrimination because of your gender in your employment, an HKM employment law attorney can help.