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California women sue Wal-Mart alleging sex discrimination

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a class-action lawsuit that accused the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, of sex discrimination. The lawsuit involved more than 1.5 million current and former employees who claimed that they were not treated equally by the employer because of their sex.

The U.S. Supreme Court never determined whether or not Wal-Mart had in fact discriminated against employees because of their sex, but the high court did conclude that there was not enough evidence to review the sex-discrimination lawsuit.

Although the 10-year-old class-action lawsuit was dismissed, this has left the doors open for other numerous lawsuits to be filed at the local level on behalf of smaller groups of employees who claim that they were discriminated against because of their sex. The first of such cases was recently introduced in California.

Last week, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of nearly 95,000 California women formerly or currently employed by Wal-Mart. The lawsuit claims that the women were not treated equally on the basis of promotional and pay bias. This time, attorneys believe that they have more evidence to back up the claims of the California women.

A major trend the women are pointing to is the fact that in every district of California, Wal-Mart consistently paid women less money than men and promoted them less often, even if they were more qualified than their male counterparts.

The lawsuit also claims that in 2004, Wal-Mart's CEO made a statement condoning sex discrimination. At a meeting with district managers, the CEO said that he believed women were better at information processing while men's forte was maintaining focus. The lawsuit also claims that the manager said that more men were in senior management positions because men were "more aggressive in achieving those levels of responsibility."

The women named in the lawsuit are seeking back pay between December 1998 and June 2004.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "New lawsuit alleges sex discrimination," Bob Egelko, Oct. 28, 2011