New Select Subcommittee Report Reveals Workplace Disparities Have Persisted Throughout Pandemic, Highlights Need to Address Inequality

Oct 25, 2022
Press Release
Data obtained from 12 Fortune 500 companies with significant pandemic layoffs demonstrate need for universal paid sick and caregiving leave programs

Washington, D.C. (October 25, 2022) – Today, the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, chaired by Rep. James E. Clyburn, released a staff report detailing how certain groups of American workers—including hourly workers, women, workers of color, and older workers—have faced inequitable employment outcomes prior to and during the coronavirus crisis. Workers who did not have access to company paid leave also faced worse employment outcomes than workers with leave.

The report is based on the Select Subcommittee’s December 2021 survey of 12 of the nation’s largest employers, each of which were reported to have significant layoffs in 2020. The Select Subcommittee analyzed data on seven key employment outcomes—furloughs, layoffs, terminations, voluntary departures, wage and salary reductions, wage and salary increases, and promotions—at the 12 companies for 2019, 2020, and 2021. The Select Subcommittee released initial findings from this survey in a May 2022 memorandum that detailed the disproportionate harm women working for hourly wages faced during the first year of the coronavirus pandemic.

The surveyed companies were AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Boeing, Chevron, Cisco, Citigroup, Comcast, ExxonMobil, Oracle, Salesforce, Walmart, and the Walt Disney Company. 

Chairman Clyburn released the following statement about today’s report:

“The coronavirus pandemic created an unprecedented crisis for American workers, many of whom struggled to stay in their jobs while keeping themselves and their families safe. This crisis had a particularly devastating impact on historically marginalized groups, including hourly workers, women, workers of color, and older workers, who were more likely to suffer worse outcomes and less likely to have access to the benefits needed to protect themselves and their families. Today’s report demonstrates that the inequities we observed during this crisis are deeply rooted in our economy and have persisted throughout the pandemic. These findings underscore the urgent need to address inequality as we continue to work to achieve a strong, sustainable, and equitable economic future.

“Today’s report also makes clear that workers who had access to paid leave fared much better than those who did not, and that paid leave offers important benefits for employers as well. These findings highlight the critical importance of enacting a national, universal paid leave program that gives every American access to these crucial workplace benefits. American workers deserve to know that, no matter what crisis they may face, they will not have to choose between keeping their families fed and caring for themselves and their loved ones.”

Today’s staff report is entitled “America’s Pandemic Workforce: Persistent Structural Inequities Harm Workers and Threaten Future Crisis Response” and is available in full here. The report reveals the following key findings:

Hourly Workers Were More Likely to Quit or Be Fired and Were Less Likely to Be Promoted Than Salaried Workers in 2019, 2020, and 2021. 

  • Hourly workers often had much worse outcomes than their salaried counterparts at the same company. For example, at one company, 13.9% of hourly workers quit in 2020, compared to just 5.1% of salaried workers. 
  • However, these inequities were not universal, and hourly workers at some companies had better outcomes. While Walmart’s hourly workers had worse outcomes than salaried workers—meaning they quit or were fired at higher rates, and received raises and promotions at lower rates—80.0% of the time (and had similar outcomes the other 20.0% of the time), Cisco’s hourly workers only had worse outcomes than salaried workers 20.0% of the time (and had better outcomes 40.0% of the time).

The Inequities Experienced by Hourly Workers Were Compounded by Gender Inequities and Racial/Ethnic Inequities for Women and Workers of Color. 

  • Female hourly workers and hourly workers of color not only often had worse outcomes than their salaried counterparts, but often had worse outcomes than male and white hourly workers. For example, in 2020, Black hourly workers at Walmart were fired twice as frequently as white hourly workers (19.7% vs. 10.4%), three times as frequently as Black salaried workers (19.7% vs. 6.3%), and five times as frequently as white salaried workers (19.7% vs. 4.0%).

Workers Without Access to Paid Sick Leave Quit at Far Higher Rates Than Workers with Access to Paid Sick Leave. 

  • At one company in 2020, 28.8% of male hourly workers and 35.5% of female hourly workers without access to paid sick leave quit, compared to just 10.2% of male hourly workers and 12.4% of female hourly workers with access to paid sick leave. This analysis affirms existing research showing that paid sick leave benefits both employers and workers, particularly by improving employee retention.

Workers Who Had Access to and Took Family and Caregiving Leave Did Not Experience an Increase in Adverse Employment Outcomes, and the Use of This Leave Was Associated with Improved Worker Retention and Performance Recognition. 

  • Workers who had access to and took family and caregiving leave quit at a lower rate than workers who did not 86.2% of the time. These workers also received raises at a higher rate than workers who did not take such leave 87.2% of the time. The lower quit rate speaks to the value of this leave in improving worker retention. 
  • The fact that workers who took this leave were promoted and given raises at higher rates than workers who did not may indicate that workers’ performance improved as a result of taking the leave, perhaps due to reduced stress and burnout.

Older Workers Quit, Resigned, or Retired Less but Were Laid Off More Than Younger Workers

  • Workers aged 50 and older were laid off at higher rates than younger workers 55.0% of the time, but only quit, resigned, or retired at lower rates than younger workers 65.6% of the time. The differences between these two groups’ outcomes were often quite extreme, with older workers being laid off at double, triple, or even quintuple the rate of younger workers, and with younger workers quitting, resigning, or retiring at double or triple the rate of older workers.
  • Older workers' experience with high rates of job loss during the pandemic differed from previous economic crises, including the Great Recession, when they were less impacted by job losses than younger workers. The Select Subcommittee’s analysis demonstrates that older workers’ pandemic job losses were more involuntary than voluntary.

Most Surveyed Companies Had Not Collected Comprehensive Data on Their Workers’ Benefits, Sexual Orientation, or Gender Identity

  • Only two companies tracked data for all eight benefits the Select Subcommittee requested. Additionally, only one company tracked data on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) workers for all three years covered by the Select Subcommittee’s survey. 
  • This lack of data limited the Select Subcommittee’s ability to understand the full scope of inequities at the surveyed companies and to understand the impact of employment benefits other than paid leave. It also limits companies’ ability to monitor their own compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity).

The United States Lacks Key Data on Worker Demographics and Employment Outcomes Because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Does Not Collect It

  • Some of the surveyed companies told the Select Subcommittee that they did not collect certain data because EEOC did not require them to do so. EEOC’s main data collection tool only requires employers to report information on their workers’ binary sex, race/ethnicity, and job category. This tool was first released in 1966 and has not been significantly updated since.

Given these findings, the Select Subcommittee is making three recommendations: 1) Inequitable employment outcomes in the American workforce must be addressed; 2) American workers and employers would benefit from national, universal paid sick leave and paid family and caregiving leave programs; and 3) EEOC should begin the process of collecting data on additional federally protected characteristics and on employment outcomes so that it can enforce the full range of federal laws protecting Americans from discrimination in the workplace.

Click here to read today’s report.

117th Congress