Recent study by the NAACP shows that minority employees paid less than white counterparts

We are incredibly disappointed by recent research indicating that minority employees in the retail industry face significant disparities in terms of compensation and opportunities for advancement.  The study, conducted by the NAACP and Demos, a public policy organization, found that minority employees, including African-Americans, Latinos, and Asians make up roughly one third of the retail industry nationwide, but that they are paid significantly less than their white counterparts and are substantially less likely to achieve promotions.  The study further found that these minority workers are less likely to get full-time jobs as opposed to part-time jobs and are underrepresented in management positions.

The hourly pay disparities are significant. The study found that on average, Black and Latino retail employees in sales receive about 75 percent of the pay of the median white salesperson, 91 percent of the pay of the median white cashier, and Hispanic supervisory employees receive about 88 percent of the pay of the median white supervisor.  The pay disparities in retail sales extend to Asian employees as well, in which the study found that Asian employees in sales earn about 89 percent of the pay of their white counterparts.

The study reports that 9 percent of the retail workforce lives below the official poverty line, with 7 percent of the white and Asian retail workers falling below the poverty line, 13 percent of Latino retail workers falling below the line, and 17 percent of African-American retail workers falling below the line.

In addition to the large disparities in pay, the study also found that minority retail employees held far fewer supervisory positions as compared to their white counterparts.  White employees make up 71 percent of first-line supervisors, whereas Asian employees make up only 6 percent, Hispanic employees make up only 13 percent, and African American employees make up only 8 percent.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibit discrimination based on race. Although retail employers may have various non-discriminatory ways to determine an employee’s pay, such as prior experience and qualifications, the figures presented by the NAACP study certainly suggest that there is a clear racial bias in the retail industry.  Whether the disparities amount to unlawful discrimination is a much more nuanced determination that would require an individualized assessment of the particular employees and retailers at issue.  However, the data from the NAACP study is very unsettling, and we hope that the retail industry will take note and re-evaluate their employment practices to ensure that their minority employees are equally compensated and recognized for their contributions in the workplace.

For more information on the NAACP and Demos study, visit: and—Race—Divide—Rename.pdf