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Press Release 02-11-2022

EEOC Sues Walmart for Gender and Race Discrimination

Ottumwa Store Employee Denied Promotion Based on Having a Newborn at Home, Federal Agency Charges

OTTUMWA, Iowa – Walmart violated federal law when it gave a Black female employee an unsanitary lactation space based upon her race and failed to promote her based on sex stereotypes about mothers with small children, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

The EEOC’s pre-suit investigation revealed that Walmart failed to promote the employee to a management position at its Ottumwa store because it assumed she would not remain with the company long due to her having a newborn at home.  Walmart also gave her an unsanitary storage closet to express her breast milk, a facility that was inferior to the clean office space it provided to a White employee for the same purpose.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and race. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, (EEOC v. Walmart, Inc. et al., 22-cv-00037) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s litigation effort will be led by Trial Attorneys Hannah Henkel and Kelly Bunch and Supervisory Trial Attorney Justin Mulaire.

“It is inexcusable and unlawful that qualified women are still facing these kinds of discrimin­atory barriers to career advancement in the workplace,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Federal law clearly prohibits employers from making discrim­inatory promotion decisions based on sex stereotypes and requires employers to provide equal working conditions for their employees regardless of race.” 

Julie Bowman, district director of the Chicago District Office, added, “The EEOC will continue to enforce Title VII to ensure that employers provide women with young children at home the same opportunities for career advancement as other workers and that nursing mothers are not provided inferior lactation spaces based on race.”

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the former employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

For more information on sex-based discrimination, please visit For more information on race and color discrimination, please visit

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.