Gender discrimination suit against Walmart proceeds

A federal judge in California ruled that a gender discrimination suit against Walmart can proceed despite objections by the retail giant. US Judge Charles Breyer on September 21 handed down his decision in San Francisco and said that he would rule later on whether the suit would be certified as a class action.

The US Supreme Court in June 2011 ruled that a similar suit against Walmart filed in 2001 affecting about 1.5 million female Walmart employees throughout the US who had worked for the company since 1998 did not meet the requirements of a class action.

Plaintiffs in the California suit include Betty Duke, an 18-year Walmart employee, who was among those who filed the original gender discrimination suit against the company. Attorneys for Duke and the other plaintiffs amended their suit to narrow their definition of class to women employees of Walmart and Sam’s Club in California and filed a new suit in October 2011.

A similar suit has been filed in Texas.

 “We’re back,” said plaintiffs’ lead counsel Brad Seligman of the Impact Fund when the California suit was filed. “This case and the fight for justice for the women of Walmart are not over. The complaint filed against California Walmart is well within Supreme Court guidelines, and we are determined to see that California Walmart women employees who have been waiting 11 years for justice finally get their day in court.”

The plaintiffs’ suit alleges that women Walmart employees are paid less than their male counterparts in similar positions and that women have fewer opportunities for promotions than men.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs have said that they will use a new statistical analysis to show that “women who have held salaried and hourly positions in California (Walmart and Sam’s Club) stores and regions have been paid less than men in comparable positions, although on average women have more seniority and higher performance ratings than men.”

Furthermore, the attorneys say, “women in Walmart’s California regions also had a much lower chance of getting promoted than men.”

The suit, which could affect 90,000 current and former Walmart employees, argues that Walmart’s corporate culture in California makes it difficult for women to earn salaries comparable to male co-workers and obtain promotions.

“This culture of discrimination against women, fostered by a lack of formal pay and promotion policies encouraged a ‘good old boy’s’ network throughout the California Regions,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Arcelia Hurtado of the San Francisco-based Equal Rights Advocates. “Notice of promotions often was word-of-mouth and women who clearly had the experience to become store managers were passed over time and time again. We are confident that our case in California will help put these practices to an end and lead to fair and just compensation for Walmart’s women workers.”

A similar suit, Odle, et al v. Walmart Stores, Inc, was filed in Dallas in October 2011 on behalf of Walmart women employees in Texas.

“This suit alleges Walmart Texas Regions have a general policy of discrimination,” said  plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Hal K. Gillespie, of Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky, PC, of Dallas.  “What we have found during our discovery is a consistent and willful practice of discrimination in pay and promotion against women employees in Walmart stores throughout Texas. This case is in complete compliance with the new class action and employment discrimination guidelines. We can now seek justice for these women, many of whom had been discriminated against for more than a decade.”

Those seeking more information about these legal actions can find it at http://www.walmartclass.com/public_home.html.

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