Cases such as Walgreens are important because they promote social change.
Lack of compliance with civil and employee rights statutes can have severe ramifications for companies. These consequences often occur when companies do not have or do not follow an effective affirmative action plan. As a result of this situation, these companies are subject to being penalized. Penalties can include criminal proceedings, loss of government contracts, and litigation from employees brought through the EEOC. Litigation of this nature can be severe, costing companies millions. Lack of compliance consequences are best seen through a case involving Walgreens, in which the company was found guilty of failing to comply with workplace laws which resulted in a large lawsuit.
In 2007, Walgreens paid a $24 million settlement to plaintiffs who brought a class-action lawsuit against the company. The plaintiffs claimed that the company engaged in systemic discrimination against black employees. This case was won and a settlement was awarded due to the fact that Walgreens did not comply with affirmative action plans, resulting in black employees being excluded from promotions to management positions, despite the fact that they were experienced, had seniority, and were as qualified as those who were promoted in place of them (Vockrodt, 2007).
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for hearing discrimination complaints from and employees and filing appropriate charges of discrimination against employers in cases such as Walgreens. The EEOC was formed in order to reduce litigation and to keep the court system from being flooded with cases (EEOC, 2014). The EEOC attempts to resolve cases in order to avoid litigation. For this reason, there are specific protocols that must be followed when filing a discrimination claim (EEOC, 2014).
The filing and complaint process must be done in stages and within appropriate time limitations set be the EEOC. The filing is not complicated but can be time consuming. Such as in the case of Walgreens, an individual believed that he or she was discriminated against at work because individual race and went to the EEOC. The person filed a discrimination complaint based on this belief and EEOC then opened an investigation. Once the EEOC determined that the discrimination complaint was valid, the individual was allowed to pursue litigation against Walgreens. The law requires that a person file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC before he or she can file a job discrimination lawsuit against the employer. Because the employees filed their complaints within required time limitations and the EEOC found merit in the case, the EEOC filed suit on behalf of the employees of TSW Management, Inc. This suit was filed after the EEOC was unable to reach voluntary settlement. The EEOC filed for damages and sought an injunction to prohibit the company from engaging in discriminatory behavior in the future.
Cases such as Walgreens are important because they promote social change. The outcome of the case caused Walgreen’s to alter long standing practices and policies. The company was forced to create a new affirmative action plan and to incorporate more effective practices which expand diversity within the company. While suits such as this are negative because people were hurt, they do have the positive impact of promoting change and eliminating discrimination.
One of the primary ways in which cases such as Walgreens help to promote social change is via creating a less biased view of these cases. Discrimination cases are often viewed pejoratively because organizations and people who are opposed to these cases see them as a means of making money or as employee retaliation over frivolous issues. While there may be some cases which are frivolous in this way, there are also many cases which are not. This bias is often promoted through media and can have the negative impact of diminishing the importance of these cases. In articles such as “Walgreen pays $24m to settle discrimination suit” there is some level of bias in which the authors present the case in favor of the company to some degree. This is evident due to the fact that the article only presents the story from Walgreens managers. In fact the article ends on this note:
…blacks represent 17 percent of the company’s store managers and district managers, which she said was greater than the industry average (Vockrodt, 2007).
While the author presents a mostly well rounded story, it is clear that he has some bias towards the company. For this reason, the EEOC creates a press release which is used to present the government’s view of the situation. This provides another form of media presentation that helps to show the case from a different perspective. As well, it reduces the ability of large corporations from releasing one sided views of cases which promote their interests.
In order for Walgreen’s to ensure future compliance and inclusion in their multicultural workplace, the best approach would be to follow an effective affirmative action plan which outlines clear goals for hiring and promotion. The company needs to be able to manage diversity effectively and this means having specific tools in place to deal with issues that arise that are related to diversity. There needs to be an effective communication plan which takes into account issues such as diversity as well a dispute resolution process that fosters open communication of problems that employees may experience. By creating an effective means of communicating issues, the issues that led to the Walgreen’s case can be avoided. One of the major problems that led to the EEOC involvement was the fact that employees were unable to voice their opinions or turn to internal company mechanisms in order to voice their issues. Once the EEOC becomes involved, the case was no longer an internal matter. By having a well-constructed communication plan, dispute resolution process system, and an effective affirmative action plan; Walgreens can avoid situations such as this case in the future as well as build a more effective workplace.
Cunningham, D. Green, D. Diversity as a Competitive Strategy in the Workplace Journal of Practical Consulting, Vol. 1 Iss. 2, 2007, pp. 51–55
EEOC (2008) Final Decree Entered With Walgreens For $24 Million In Landmark Race Discrimination Suit By EEOC Retrieved from EEOC.gov
EEOC (2014) About http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/
Vockrodt, S. (2007, July 13). Walgreen pays $24m to settle discrimination suit. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/kansascity/stories/2007/07/09/daily37.html
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Vincent Triola. Wed, Jan 20, 2021. EEOC: Walgreens Discrimination Suit Summary Retrieved from https://vincenttriola.com/blogs/ten-years-of-academic-writing/eeoc-walgreens-discrimination-suit-summary