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Wal-Mart discrimination case will go to trial February 7, 2007

Posted by C.A.R.D in benefits, Card, CARD Sexism, Carl Tobias, Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination, Civil Rights, corporate policy of discrimination, discrimination lawusit, female, females, Joseph Sellers, Lawsuit, sex bias, Sexism, sexism against women, sexism lawsuit, Supreme Court, Wal-Mart lawsuit, Wal-Mart sexism, Wal-Mart sexist, Women, work discrimination.

Appeals court expands class-action suit that could include 2 million women

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the biggest U.S. private employer, lost a bid to prevent 2 million current and former female workers from proceeding as a group with sex bias claims in the largest employment lawsuit in U.S. history.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco on Tuesday upheld a 2004 lower court ruling granting class-action status to a lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of paying women less than men and giving them fewer promotions. That ruling expanded the suit, originally filed by six women, to include all women who worked at Wal-Mart stores from December 1998 to the present, excluding upper management and pharmacy workers.  With the decision, women employed during that period at Delaware’s eight Wal-Mart stores are now included in the suit. The company employs 4,056 workers in the state.

The court’s 2-1 decision is a blow to Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, which is facing more than 200 federal lawsuits by employees. While the workers still have to prove their claims at a trial, the ruling provides leverage for a settlement. The workers are seeking billions in back pay and punitive damages, court-ordered changes in Wal-Mart’s practices and independent monitoring.

“Expert opinions, factual evidence, statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence present significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination,” the appeals court said.  The potential number of women covered by the case, originally about 1.5 million, had grown to about 1.6 million by the time of the class certification decision in 2004, according to plaintiffs’ lawyers. The number of former and current women workers who could be part of the class is now closer to 2 million, said Joseph Sellers, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Wal-Mart employs 1.3 million people in the U.S., more than 815,000 of them women, and 1.8 million people worldwide.

“The lost wages and benefits alone would be in the billions,” Sellers said. “This decision reaffirms that big companies like Wal-Mart are covered by our civil rights laws and there is no large-company exception.”

Wal-Mart has said there is no pay disparity between men and women at most of its stores and it should be allowed to rebut workers’ claims of discrimination individually. Pay and promotion decisions are made at the local level by store managers, so the experience of workers at one store would be different from those at another, its lawyers said.

If the decision is upheld, the Supreme Court may agree to hear Wal-Mart’s appeal because of the 2-1 split and the importance of the lawsuit, said law professor Carl Tobias of the University of Richmond law school in Virginia.

CARD {Citizens Against Racism and Discrimination} Source: delawareonline.com

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