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Do Retail Workers Face Discrimination?

In many ways, retail employment is the great modern equalizer. There are retail jobs in almost every neighborhood that require very little education or professional experience. Almost anyone can qualify for retail employment, even those with extensive limitations on their physical capabilities or their schedules.

However, despite the proliferation of retail facilities and significant demand for employees, such work often comes with low compensation, stressful scheduling practices and few advancement opportunities. A person’s race, which should not affect their job opportunities or compensation, may have a negative impact on both of these important aspects of someone’s career.

Research about the experiences of different racial groups in retail work environments shows that discrimination continues to affect people of color working at  retail businesses.

They are more likely to live in poverty

Overall, many retail workers earn such low wages that they can barely support themselves on a single job. However, the color of the workers’ skin seemingly influences the likelihood that they will receive poverty-level wages.

Overall, 9% of the retail workforce lives below the poverty line. However, that percentage increases to 13% for Latino retail workers and 17% for black retail workers. This may be a result of scheduling bias, meaning that the workers cannot get full-time hours, as well as pay bias, meaning they receive less than their co-workers for performing similar work.

They may also lose income due to the racial biases of consumers, as they earn less as salespeople in addition to when they work as hourly employees.

They have fewer advancement opportunities

Latino and black retail workers are less likely than their white co-workers to receive due consideration for a supervisory role when one becomes available. Researchers estimate that black workers fill roughly 11% of all retail jobs but account for only 6% of management.

Issues including company policies that unfairly benefit individuals of certain backgrounds over others, like using credit scores as part of their process for selecting a manager, may only help to extend the unfair lack of opportunity experienced by Latino and black retail workers.

Recognizing that workplace discrimination is an issue even in retail environments I can help those treated unfairly by their employers understand that they may have grounds to make a racial discrimination claim.