Female employees of Wal-Mart stores who claim that Wal-Mart discriminated against them have filed a lawsuit against the giant retailer. This new lawsuit comes months after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a national class-action lawsuit. In this suit, their claims are limited to California stores of the retail chain. The lawyers filing the suit said an “armada” of other lawsuits will be filed in the next six months making discrimination claims in other regions of the country, as opposed to nationwide.
In rejecting the earlier lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the Plaintiffs, who had sought back pay for as many as 1.5 million women nationwide, had failed to establish that the legal and factual issues involving all those women had enough in common to be examined as a single class. The latest lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Wal-Mart’s discriminatory practices on pay and job promotion affected more than 90,000 women currently or formerly employed at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in four regions in California and neighboring states.
It should be noted that in its June ruling in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the U.S. Supreme Court did not determine whether Wal-Mart had discriminated against any women. Rather the Court in a 5-4 vote concluded that the lawsuit did not satisfy requirements that the group of people in the class had questions of law or fact in common. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the case involved “literally millions of employment decisions.” The Plaintiffs, he added, were required to point to “some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together.”
The new lawsuit is said to have specifically been tailored to address the Supreme Court’s concerns. He said the Plaintiffs were subject to the “same decision makers” and that there was some sort of “overall animus directed at the women.” The lawsuit describes Wal-Mart’s California region as being governed by a “good old boy philosophy” where job opportunities were not posted, but were passed along word-of-mouth, usually to men. It was alleged that one California regional vice president, for instance, suggested that women did not seek management positions because of their “family commitments.”
A California district manager for Sam’s Club said he had paid a female employee less than a male counterpart because the male manager “supports his wife and two kids,” the lawsuit says. It was alleged in the lawsuit that such attitudes were pervasive companywide. At a 2004 meeting of district managers, it was alleged that Thomas Coughlin, then chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, told the group that the key to their success was “single focus to get the job done,” and that “Women tend to be better at information processing.” He added that “Men are better” at focusing on a “single objective.”
The origins of the lawsuit date to 1999 when Stephanie Odle was fired after complaining that she was discriminated against because of her sex. Ms. Odle said she had discovered that a male employee with the same job and less experience was making $23,000 a year more than she was. The lead Plaintiff in the case decided by the Supreme Court, Betty Dukes, is also the lead Plaintiff in this latest case. Brad Seligman of Berkeley, Calif., and Joseph M. Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington D.C., are lead lawyers in the case for the women.
Source: New York Times
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