A Costco Wholesale assistant manager sued the warehouse-club chain yesterday in federal court, alleging the company’s promotion policies keep women from seeking out the top two positions at its stores.
Shirley “Rae” Ellis, an assistant general manager at a warehouse in Douglas County, Colo., seeks class-action status on behalf of up to 650 women who worked for the Issaquah-based company in the past three years.
The company denied the allegations.
Ellis, a former general manager at Wal-Mart-owned Sam’s Club, said she joined Costco six years ago after being promised she could quickly become a general manager.
Ellis said she offered to move anywhere in the country to fill the role but never received a promotion.
“It’s six years, and I am still waiting,” she said. “And I’m not holding my breath.”
The lawsuit claims Ellis and other female employees have been passed up for promotions because Costco has no system to post or apply for assistant-manager and general-manager positions at its warehouses.
This “non-system” has created an environment in which Costco’s mostly male management team has consistently selected men for the top positions. The work force is nearly 50 percent female, yet less than one in six senior managers are women, the complaint says.
An attorney in Ellis’ case, Brad Seligman, executive director of the nonprofit Impact Fund, said Costco assistant managers earn $65,000 or more, and managers get more than $100,000 plus bonuses.
In October 2002, Ellis filed discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
She filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco after she received a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC.
She said she sought help from The Impact Fund, one of three firms representing her case, after reading it had filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart