APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS WOMEN’S RIGHT TO SUE WAL-MART FOR ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION
Female Wal-Mart employees can sue the world’s largest retailer as a single class over allegations that it paid them less than men and gave them fewer promotions, according to a federal court decision on April 26.
The 6 to 5 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco brings the case another step closer to trial. Wal-Mart said that it now plans to request that the Supreme Court review the ruling. But attorneys for the women said they hope the case will go to trial by the end of the year–nine years after the suit was filed.
“Our clients are determined to see this case through to its conclusion,” Joseph Sellers, a lawyer with Cohen Milstein and co-lead counsel on the case, told the Washington Post.
The appeals court did not rule on whether discrimination occurred at Wal-Mart but on whether female employees could sue the company collectively. The original class covered women who have worked at Wal-Mart’s sprawling fleet of about 3,400 stores since 1998, initially estimated to number about 1.6 million, which would have made it the nation’s largest sex discrimination case.
But the appeals court decided to carve out female workers who left the company before the suit was filed in 2001. Sellers estimates that the class still encompasses more than 1 million women, but Wal-Mart said the number has been whittled to roughly 500,000. The circuit court also referred to a lower court the issue of whether employees can seek back pay and punitive damages.