The country’s largest employers have collectively laid off more than 100,000 workers during the Covid pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by a House subcommittee.
Hourly workers were hit particularly hard. Not only were they more likely to be fired than employees in 2019, 2020 and 2021, but they were also more likely to quit and be less likely to be promoted, congressional investigators found. The phenomenon disproportionately affected women, blacks and older workers.
The findings are part of an employee report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which details workforce inequalities at 12 major companies: AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway, Boeing, rafters, Cisco, Citigroup, Komcast, Exxon Mobile, oracle, Foreclosure, Walmart and Walt Disney.
“Today’s report demonstrates that the injustices observed during this crisis are deeply ingrained in our economy and persist throughout the pandemic,” Rep. James Clyburn, DS.C., chair of the subcommittee, said in a statement. “These results underscore the urgent need to address inequality as we continue to work to achieve a strong, sustainable and just economic future.”
Employees at some of these companies often fared better than their lower-paid peers. According to the report, for example, Walmart’s hourly employees quit or were fired at higher rates and received raises and promotions at lower rates than salaried workers 80% of the time.
According to the results, black hourly workers at Walmart were also twice as likely to be fired as white hourly workers in 2020, at 19.7% versus 10.4% reportedly. At 19.7%, members of this group were also fired more than three times as often as black employees at 6.3% and at 19.7% almost five times as often as white employees at 4%.
The subcommittee said that during the survey period, Walmart showed most clearly a confluence of wage inequalities and racial and ethnic differences. But despite the injustices, the company has laid off relatively fewer employees during the pandemic compared to other big employers.
Walmart laid off 1,240 employees — far fewer than the 32,000 Disney laid off. Next was Boeing with 26,000 layoffs, according to data compiled by the subcommittee.
Cisco and Chevron laid off 3,500 and 4,500, respectively. And Exxon Mobil laid off 14,000. The remaining companies are laying off between 1,000 and 13,000 of their employees.
Pandemic-related business closures had a significant impact on layoffs. Disney was forced to close its domestic theme parks for the entire third quarter of 2020, resulting in a $5 million loss for the company.
Walmart also planned a series of layoffs as part of the restructuring in early 2020, laying off 1,200 company employees as it merged its online and physical retailers. But the company offered employees who were laid off during the pandemic another position within the company, spokeswoman Anne Hatfield told The Washington Post.
Layoffs also affected older workers more often than younger workers. Workers aged 50 and older were twice, triple or even five times as likely to be fired as younger workers, and younger workers quit or retired twice or triple as often as older workers, the subcommittee found.
Benefits were a factor in employee retention. One company lost 28.8% of male workers and 35.5% of female workers in 2020 due to a lack of paid sick leave. This compares with 10.2% of male and 12.4% of female employees who were on sick leave this year.
But the bleak outlook for hourly workers only applied to some companies during the pandemic, the subcommittee noted. employees per hour Cisco They reportedly outperformed employees 40% of the time — defined as keeping their job, getting a raise, or promotion. They underperformed employees only 20% of the time.
Chevron and Exxon saw similar trends. According to the report, Chevron hourly workers outperformed salaried workers more than half the time, while Exxon hourly workers outperformed salaried workers 40% of the time.
Family and care leave also promoted the stay. Workers who had access to and took leave quit less than workers who did not have leave more than 86% of the time, the report said. These workers also received higher pay increases than workers who did not take vacation more than 87% of the time.
Data for LGBTQ+ workers was limited, the subcommittee noted, with only one company tracking data for the group for the three years covered in the survey.
The subcommittee’s report is based on a December 2021 survey of 12 of the country’s largest employers, who also reported significant layoffs in 2020. Initial findings, released in May, showed that the pandemic-era economy had disproportionately harmed women working for hourly wages.
Female hourly workers performed worse than their male counterparts about 30% of the time between 2019 and 2021. The gap peaked in 2020 at 39.7% compared to white-collar workers and men.
In its final report, the subcommittee found that benefits, including paid vacations, may have influenced unfair outcomes among hourly and salaried employees at the surveyed companies.
For example, Walmart generally did not allow hourly workers to claim paid time off until after 90 days of employment. Other leave benefits such as maternity and parental leave were only available to these workers after 12 months.
In comparison, at the time of the survey, companies like Chevron and Cisco made no distinction between hourly and salaried employees when it came to accessing benefits, and either required no waiting time or applied the same eligibility requirements to all employees.
Clyburn said the results “highlight the critical importance of implementing a national, universal paid leave program that provides every American with access to these crucial workplace benefits.”
“American workers deserve to know that no matter what crisis they face, they don’t have to choose between supporting their families or taking care of themselves and loved ones,” he added.
Eleven companies referenced in the report did not respond to CNBC with comments prior to publication. A Citigroup spokesman told CNBC that between 2019 and 2021 the company hired more employees than it fired.
Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, CNBC’s parent company.
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