BRAD SELIGMAN (SBN 083838)

JOCELYN D. LARKIN (SBN 110817)

THE IMPACT FUND

125 University Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94710

Telephone:        (510) 845-3473

Facsimile:         (510) 845-3654

 

JOSEPH SELLERS

CHRISTINE WEBBER

CHARLES TOMPKINS

JULIE GOLDSMITH

COHEN, MILSTEIN, HAUSFELD & TOLL

West Tower – Suite 500

1100 New York Avenue

Washington, D.C. 20005-3964

Telephone:        (202) 408-4600

Facsimile:         (202) 408-4699

 

IRMA D. HERRERA (SBN 98658)

DEBRA A. SMITH (SBN 147863)

EQUAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES

1663 Mission Street, Suite 250

San Francisco, CA 94103

Telephone:        (415) 621-0672

Facsimile:         (415) 621-6744

STEPHEN TINKLER

MERIT BENNETT

TINKLER & BENNETT

309 Johnson Street

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

Telephone:        (505) 986-0269

Facsimile:         (505) 982-6698

 

SHEILA Y. THOMAS (SBN 161403)

EQUAL RIGHTS ADVOCATES

5260 Proctor Avenue

Oakland, CA 94618

Telephone:        (510) 339-3739

Facsimile:         (510) 339-3723

 

DEBRA GARDNER

PUBLIC JUSTICE CENTER

500 East Lexington Street

Baltimore, MD 21202

Telephone:        (410) 625-9409

Facsimile:         (410) 625-9423

 

STEVE STEMERMAN (SBN 067690)

ELIZABETH LAWRENCE (SBN 111781)

DAVIS, COWELL & BOWE

100 Van Ness Avenue, 20th Floor

San Francisco, CA 94102

Telephone:        (415) 626-1880

Facsimile:         (415) 626-2860

 

Attorneys for Plaintiffs

SHAUNA MARSHALL (SBN 90641)

HASTINGS COLLEGE OF THE LAW

200 McAllister Street

San Francisco, CA 94102

Telephone:        (415) 565-4685

Facsimile:         (415) 565-4854

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

 

NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

 

BETTY DUKES, PATRICIA SURGESON, CLEO PAGE, CHRISTINE KWAPNOSKI, DEBORAH GUNTER, KAREN WILLIAMSON AND EDITH ARANA, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated,

 

                        Plaintiff,

            vs.

WAL-MART STORES, INC.,

                        Defendant

Case No. C-01-2252 MJJ

 

 

 

 

DECLARATION OF THEARSA COLLIER IN SUPPORT OF PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR CLASS CERTIFICATION

I, Thearsa Collier, declare:

 

1.         I make this statement on the basis of my personal knowledge, and, if called as a witness, could and would testify competently to the facts herein.

 

2.         I was employed by Wal-Mart, Inc. from January 2000 until January 2001.  I am female.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master's in Public Administration.  I reside in Virginia.

 

3.         Prior to working at Wal-Mart, I was in the United States Navy for nine years, and then I worked in retail.  During my tenure in the Navy, I ran a pediatric trauma unit, was responsible for a $260,000 annual medical budget, and supervised as many as 40 people.  I also received leadership training in two separate courses entitled Total Quality Leadership and Total Quality Management.  I was honorably discharged as a Hospital Corpsman, Third Class.  After my  discharge from the Navy, I worked in retail as a sales associate for the Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES).  At AAFES, I received training in customer service, stocking, zoning and running the cash registers.

 

4.         During my time at AAFES, I fell in love with retail work and decided that I wanted to make a career out of it.  Both my father and brother had worked for Wal-Mart, and I was impressed with what I thought was the Company's culture of valuing its associates and creating a good working environment. 

 

5.         In November 1999, I applied to be an Assistant Manager Trainee at Wal-Mart..  I was interviewed by Bob Hart, a District Manager.  During that interview, Mr. Hart stated that as a manager in Wal-Mart, I would be required to move from store to store.  I explained to Mr. Hart that my father had just passed away, and that I needed to work in Northwest Florida so that I could be near my mother and help to take care of her.  I explained that I would be glad to move from store to store, as long as those stores were in the Florida panhandle.  Mr. Hart said 'okay', and I understood that I would only be relocated to locations within Northwest Florida.  He said that he would be sending me a letter regarding relocation that I would need to sign, and I assumed when I signed it that it encompassed my understanding with Mr. Hart.  Indeed, I thought that I would not have been hired if what I told Mr. Hart about needing to stay in that region was a problem.

 

6.         In January 2000, I became an Assistant Manager Trainee at a Supercenter store in Crestview, Florida.  I trained there for sixteen weeks with Mike Whittaker, an Assistant Manager.   Mr. Whittaker was primarily a manager of hardlines, so I received extensive training in hardlines.   I never received any written evaluation, but sometime in March, District Manager Hart provided an oral training review.  He told me that both my Store Manager, Jon Kurpil, and Mr. Whittaker were impressed with my people skills and how fast I learn.  Mr Hart also indicated that trainees usually complete all training before becoming a full Assistant Manager.

 

7.         Toward the end of my training, Judy Langford, a District Manager from Alabama, and Steve Lawrence, a Store Manager from a store in Geneva, Alabama came to speak with me about an Assistant Manager position in Mr. Lawrence's store.  The Geneva store was about 80 miles from where I was living, and outside of the area I had requested to work in.  Additionally, it was not a Supercenter, so I knew I would not be able to work my way up to Co-Manager.  When I asked to stay in the Crestview, Florida store, or relocate closer to my home and my widowed mother, I was told by Store Manager Kurpil that if I did not go to the store in Geneva, I could be sent anywhere, including California.  I also asked District Manager Hart again about openings in the Florida panhandle, but he just became agitated and said that I had to be able to move within a five hour radius.  Because I was afraid of getting transferred even further, I agreed to go to Alabama. 

 

8.         I was very disappointed that I had to move to a store in Alabama, and I was especially confused about what the relocation policy required in light of what I learned from some men.  First, Jesse Hill, a male manager of the meat department told me that I could stay in the Crestview store if Mr. Hart or Mr. Kurpill wanted me to stay; he said they could make it happen if they wanted.  When I asked Mr. Hart about this statement, he did not specifically deny it, and his silence made me think it was true.  Likewise, other male members of management told me that they were able to choose their stores.  Specifically, Scott Suczes, a Store Manager, told me during a leadership training I attended in May 2000, that he was able to stay as an Assistant Manager in the store he trained in; similarly, Mike Whittaker told me he was able to choose the Crestview store, and David Moody, an Assistant Manager at Crestview, told me he was transferred to Ft. Walton Beach at his request.  I was never informed exactly what the policy really required; after hearing all the conflicting stories, I felt like there was no real policy and that I just had no choice but to go to Geneva.

 

9.         When I arrived in the Geneva, Alabama store in April 2000,  I was given a position over softlines by Steve Lawrence, the Store Manager.  There was one other Assistant Manager in the store, a male named Carl Gassett, and he was assigned to hardlines.  In the Geneva store, the Assistant Managers did not rotate, and I was disappointed in being assigned to softlines.  I had understood, based on my training at the Crestview store, that Assistant Managers rotate, but Mr. Gassett told me he never worked over softlines.  I preferred hardlines because Mike Whittaker told me that managers over hardlines are normally promoted faster and given more opportunity for promotion; I hoped that I could move to hardlines soon.  During a managerial meeting  District Manager Judy Langford asked Store Manager Lawrence why he always put the female Assistant Mangers over softlines, and he told her "because that's what women know."  Ms. Langford did not respond or disagree with his comment.  District Manager Langford did not instruct Store Manager Lawrence to change the assignments, or to base assignments on any factors other than his stereotypical prejudices.  Again, I believed I had no choice but to stay in softlines in that store. 

 

10.       Prior to beginning at the Geneva store, I had been scheduled to attend a leadership training school.  Once in Geneva, Mr. Lawrence did not think I should attend, but District Manager Hart intervened and advocated on my behalf.  After that, I was touring the store with Mr. Lawrence, and --in a tone of disgust -- he told me that as a "black" and as a "woman", I would go far with Wal-Mart.  I knew from his tone of voice that he would never give me a fair chance to succeed. 

 

11.       During this leadership training, I learned that there is no policy requiring an Assistant Manager to stay in a given store for a certain amount of time, and that, in fact, moving can help with promotion.  More specifically, Mr. Scott Suczes told me that there are no set limits for how long one had to stay in a store, and that he moved several times in order to make himself more knowledgeable and promotable.  Because of what he told me, because I felt like I could not advance as far as an Assistant Manager of softlines in the smaller Geneva store, and because of my continued need to help my mother, I requested to be transferred back to Florida as soon as I returned from leadership training.  I made the request to Mr. Lawrence, the Store Manager.  My request was denied.  Contrary to what I had been taught at the leadership training, Mr. Lawrence told me that I had to stay in his store for a minimum of eighteen months to two years.  I made several other requests after this, and each time I was again told by Store Manager Lawrence and/or District Manager Langford that I would have to wait to be transferred even though I had been told differently by the men at the leadership training program.   

 

12.       During this time, I attempted to use the Open Door policy to address my concerns.  This policy provides that any employee can discuss with any superior, up to and including the CEO, any concerns the employee has, and that the employee can expect  a fair and responsible exchange.  I called Regional Personnel Managers Steve Schultheis and Rudy Eckerman, several times to discuss my inability to be transferred, as well as continuing problems I was having with  Store Manager Lawrence.  In particular, I explained to them that Mr. Lawrence yelled at me on nearly a  daily basis and embarrassed me in front of the associates.  In contrast, Assistant Manager Carl Gassett made frequent mistakes and often could not work a register properly, but when I expressed concerns about him, Mr. Lawrence would say "that's just Karl."  Admittedly, Mr. Lawrence had a loud voice, but his harsh tone, severe looks and bullying demeanor were generally reserved for me.  Additionally, I was the only one he told: "We're all rednecks here, so you might as well get used to it."  Mr. Eckerman told me that he had investigated the complaints by asking Mr. Lawrence about it, and that he believed Mr. Lawrence.  I later found out that Wal-Mart had confirmed that Mr. Lawrence made the statement about everyone being a redneck, as well as the statement about blacks and women advancing.  (Attached hereto as Collier Exhibit A is a true and correct copy of a memo from Mr. Eckerman to Tom Coughlin, the President and CEO of Wal-Mart). 

 

13.       In late July 2000, I purchased some plants on my lunch hour.  There was a pricing discrepancy, and the associate gave me a discount on one plant.  Charles Howell, the Support Manager on duty then reviewed the policy on the computer and told me that I should get the lower price on all my purchases.  When I asked the service desk for the discount for all the purchases, the associate was unable to re-ring the purchase with all the discounts.  I then learned from one of the associates who was present, Theresa Bryant, that I should not have received any discount for any purchase.  Again, however, the service desk associate was unable to re-ring the purchase to take off the discount before the store closed.  As soon as I returned to work, I informed the new Store Manager, Kathy Searcy, about the error.  I had been trained that Wal-Mart policy provides that if you learn of an error that has occurred, you are to inform management so that they can correct the situation, and that no form of retaliation will take place if you do so.  Despite this policy, I received a written disciplinary note, or coaching, stating that my attempt to get the discount was "contrary to company policy."  The coaching indicated that I had 45 days to show significant improvement.  I had never seen any male Manager have their mistakes held against them in this way; in fact, it was Support Manager Charles Howell who gave me the wrong information on the company policy, and nobody said anything to him about that.

 

14.       Shortly after this incident, I again called Mr. Eckerman to complain about my working conditions.  I said that it was not right that I had been disciplined for an honest error I had tried to correct, and that I was being discriminated against.  In response to this attempt to use the Open Door, Mr. Eckerman told me that I would be transferred to a store in Thomasville, Georgia, a store that was three hours from where my mother lived and even further than the Geneva store.  He also said that I would be monitored for six months instead of forty-five days, and that if I performed well during the six months, he would remove the coaching from my record.  I told Mr. Eckerman that the coaching should be removed immediately altogether, but he said that was the best he would do.  Mr. Eckermon expressed no concern with my report of discrimination nor did he indicate that there would be any investigation or followup.  There was no indication of how long I would have to remain in Georgia, nor when, if ever, I could return to Northwest Florida.  

 

15.       In August 2000, I wrote a letter to the President and CEO of Wal-Mart complaining of discrimination based on gender and race.  I never received any response to this Open Door effort.  Instead, I was transferred to the Thomasville store in September, where I felt like my every move was being watched.  I realized that the Open Door policy at Wal-Mart was a façade and resulted only in retaliation. 

 

16.       Sometime in December 2000 or early January 2001, Mitch Day, the District Manager for the Thomasville store,  told me that he "did not believe what he had heard" and that I was a very good worker with a good personality.  I knew that my use of the Open Door had not been confidential, and had resulted in my new District Manager receiving unfair reports against me before I had any chance to defend my reputation.  His comments solidified my belief that I was a victim of a good 'ole boys club.

 

17.       As soon as I was told that I had to be monitored for six months, I gave up hope of making my career at Wal-Mart and began pursuing other jobs.  In December 2000, I was offered a position at the AAFES, where I had worked prior to Wal-Mart.  The position paid better, and I felt I would have a more fair chance to advance.  I told Wal-Mart that I was leaving for a better job because I realized that Wal-Mart would not listen to my concerns, and that my efforts to address the discrimination that I had faced resulted only in retaliation and additional discrimination.  After giving proper notice, I left Wal-Mart in January 2001.

 

 

 

I declare under penalty of perjury of the laws of the United States and State of Virginia that the foregoing is true and correct.

            This Declaration was signed by me on ______________________, 2003, at _______________________.

 

                                                                                    ______________________________