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Press Release


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission


EEOC Issues Call to Retail Industry for Best Practices

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will release a new study, "Retail Distribution Centers: How New Business Processes Impact Minority Labor Markets," tomorrow, Friday, October 8. The full text of the report will be posted online at

The EEOC's study is the second in a three-part series examining diversity in the retail industry, which employs nearly 15 percent of all private sector workers in the United States. This report shows retailers that there is a correlation between distribution center location and the ability to develop and maintain a multicultural workforce. In recent years, traditional warehouses gradually have been replaced with distribution centers huge, technologically sophisticated operations units that manage the flow of information and goods between retailers and suppliers. Whereas the former warehouses typically were located in urban areas, the newer trend has been to locate distribution centers in areas with easy access to highways, inexpensive land, favorable leases, and low tax rates. These areas tend to have fewer female and minority candidates for operative and laborer jobs.

Commission Chair Cari M. Dominguez will discuss the new study tomorrow at a closed-door meeting of the National Retail Federation's Committee on Employment Law.

"With the advent of innovative distribution centers, America's retailers are challenged to choose locations that will meet strategic business needs and also to cultivate a diverse workforce," said Chair Dominguez. "The EEOC has vital information to share on data and trends, and National Retail Federation members have unique insights into the range of considerations that go into the decision-making process. We are working together so that the Commission and the retail industry can learn from one another."

Toward that end, retailers are invited to submit, via electronic mail to, their best practices regarding promoting workforce diversity at distribution centers. The EEOC is seeking ideas relating to people of color, women, individuals with disabilities and older workers. These responses will be made available to the public in the near future, without company or name attribution, on the agency's web site.

"We look forward to educating the EEOC about the business reasons that go into retailers' location decisions and working with the Commission on this issue," said National Retail Federation President and CEO Tracy Mullin.

The EEOC's new report includes the following findings:

  • As retail distribution centers grow in size (measured by number of employees), they tend to be located in less populated areas. As areas become less populated, the percentage of people of color and women in the relevant job groups declines.
  • A comparison of the locations of retail distribution centers/warehouses in 1982 to their locations in 2002 suggests that if the locations had remained in the same counties as in 1982, the relevant labor markets would have had 10 percent (based on EEO-1 data) to 14 percent higher (based on 2000 Census data) representation of people of color as operatives and laborers.
  • EEOC can effectively address decision-making about locating retail distribution centers by taking a number of steps:
    • Collecting equal employment opportunity (EEO) best practices that recognize the characteristics of logistic and supply chain operations;
    • Educating corporate officials on the workforce ramifications of distribution center locations;
    • Conducting outreach and education activities regarding EEO rights and responsibilities for potentially under-served communities when distribution centers are located in less populated areas; and
    • Providing training and technical assistance regarding statutory requirements to employers in these less populated areas.

The first of EEOC's trio of studies on the retail industry, "High End Department Stores: Their Access to and Use of Diverse Labor Markets," was issued during July 2004 and is available at The third report will address mass merchandisers. Data used are from the EEO-1 survey, which is overseen by the EEOC and required annually of private sector employers with 100 or more employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees and contracts of $50,000 or more.

The EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and in state and local governments; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973's prohibitions against disability discrimination in federal employment; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

This page was last modified on October 7, 2004.

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