Blog: Petah MarianWal-Mart's court win won't end gender discrimination accusations

Petah Marian | 21 June 2011

Wal-Mart Stores has won in an appeal to the US Supreme Court preventing a group of women from filing a class action lawsuit accusing it of a nationwide policy that led to gender discrimination.

While the class action may have faltered, lawyers for the women have said they plan to continue to fight through a number of lower courts and through the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The court prevented a group of six female Wal-Mart employees from forming a class action to sue the world's largest retailer for allegedly practising broad discrimination in its pay and promotional decisions.

The Impact Fund, a group representing the the women, said that the Supreme Court's decision addressed only whether a nationwide class action could go forward. "It did not rule on whether Wal-Mart discriminated against women, nor whether you may pursue an individual claim of sex discrimination," the group said.

Wal-Mart saw the decision as a victory. The retailer said it was "pleased" with the ruling and believes the "court made the right decision".

"The court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs' claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy," said Wal-Mart.

If the case had been allowed to go ahead, it would have covered all female workers at the retailer since 1998 and could have cost the company billions if it lost.

However, in a statement on the class action's website, lawyers for the women said that the ruling still allows women whose claims go back to 26 December 1998 to file charges with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or bring their claims in court.

"Class counsel has planned for various outcomes before the Supreme Court - including this one - and have put in place plans to assist as many women Wal-Mart class members as possible with their claims," the attorneys said.

In an interview with Bloomberg, attorney Joseph Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll said the group "began weeks ago preparing thousands of charges to be filed with the EEOC [US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]".

He said that lawyers will try to pursue some "more narrowly drawn, tailored classes" and that it will end up with "multiple cases where Wal-Mart's practices are being challenged."

It seems that the fight, for some of these women at least, is not yet over.


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