Clinton resident and Patch contributor Dawn Hittle will be seen March 8 on the news show “Dan Rather Reports” in a segment about the class-action gender discrimination suit of her former employer, Wal-Mart.
The show will air at 8 p.m. on the HDNet Channel. HDNet is available on channel 1105 on AT&T U-Verse TV; channel 306 on DIRECTV; and channel 362 on Dish Network. It is not yet available on Comcast.
The lawsuit, which claims Wal-Mart failed to promote qualified women to management positions at the same rate as men and systematically compensated women less for doing the same work as a male counterpart, began more than 12 years ago in California by current Wal-Mart employee Betty Dukes. The gender-bias case is named Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Dukes' lawsuit alleges Wal-Mart is violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, creed or gender.
Hittle, who has an MBA, started working at Wal-Mart seven years ago at a store in Pennsylvania. She moved to a store in Massachusetts followed by a store in Norwich, Connecticut.
She opened the store in Branford and was co-manager of the Cromwell store.
At her tenure in Wal-Mart, she often saw male coworkers promoted above qualified females, and saw unqualified male workers advance without going through the usual channels she was told were in place for such promotions.
One example of this was when Hittle was the co-manager of the Cromwell store. In order to be a first-time co-manager, she was told she’d be partnered with another employee who had previously managed his or her own store. The idea was to provide the new co-manager with training from an experienced manager.
The problem was that Hittle’s co-manager at the time, a man, had not yet managed his own store.
“You’d think the battles have already been fought and won,” she said.
The beginning of her career with the retail giant was a good one.
“My first two years at the company I was really proud of it – I thought this is a real “people” company and they care,” said Hittle.
Hittle said her bosses knew her intentions from the start – to move up within the ranks to run her own store and even go further to a district or even regional manager position.
“During my reviews, the part when they ask you “where do you see yourself in x years,” I would always say as a manager,” said Hittle.
Hittle said she worked long hours, weekends and holidays and was told she’d be compensated for it.
“I never got those days back even when I sacrificed days such as Christmas eve, Christmas, and other holidays,” she said.
She was never aware of what her male colleagues made as a salary, but Hittle said she knew she was on the lower range of the pay scale for her position, even with an MBA.
Asked if she believed Wal-Mart has discriminated against promoting and compensating women employees, Hittle says yes, but doesn’t truly believe it was intentional.
“Wal-Mart is a southern company and there’s a 1950s mentality of the “darling, honey, and sweetheart” attitude toward women,” she said.
“I don’t think it was written down or talked about, but the corporate culture was that the leadership positions should be a man’s job,” she said.
Hittle has met with advocacy groups such as Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) and gave her first deposition and television interview more than 10 years ago.
Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. heads to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., March 29. Former Wal-Mart employee Dawn Hittle wouldn’t miss it for the world.