The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, recently ruled that the class action discrimination lawsuit against retail giant Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. can move forward. Specifically, the court granted class certification, meaning the lawsuit can be brought as a class action because it met a set of rather strict requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Thanks to the court decision, over a million former and current employees can now combine their many discrimination claims into one legal action. In addition, many more individual plaintiffs can now potentially join the lawsuit.
Arkansas-based Wal-Mart now finds itself facing the possibility of billions of dollars in damages and lasting damage to its reputation as a good corporate citizen.
The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart discriminated against female employees by paying them less and offering them fewer chances for promotion than male employees. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2001 by store greeter Betty Dukes of Pittsburg, California, and five other co-workers. Dukes and her fellow plaintiffs are seeking both punitive damages and back pay.
This is not the first time that Wal-Mart has found itself facing this type of lawsuit. Both African-American truck drivers and disabled workers previously alleged discrimination in 13 separate lawsuits. These lawsuits were eventually settled out-of-court for a total of $6 million in 2001.
Wal-Mart Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Gearhart said of the pending class action lawsuit, "We do not believe the claims alleged by the six individuals who brought this suit are representative of the experiences of our female associates. Wal-mart is an excellent place for women to work and fosters female leadership among our associates and in the larger business world."
Wal-Mart's attorneys now have the option of appealing the 9th Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Stay tuned for further developments ...
• Court: Wal-Mart Gender Pay lawsuit Can Go to Trial (CNN)