Wal-Mart class action discrimination suit faces review

Chris Rizo Feb. 16, 2009, 4:57pm

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-A federal appeals court will review a lower court decision that approved class action status for a lawsuit claiming that Wal-Mart was discriminatory in its pay and promotion policies.

The 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Friday agreed to hear the case Dukes v. Wal-Mart, prompting praise from the Arkansas-based retailer.

In the original 2001 lawsuit filed in San Francisco, six female workers claimed Wal-Mart paid women less than men and give them fewer promotions.

In December, a three-judge panel at the appeals court heard the request for reconsideration. The panel agreed with the 2004 lower court decision granting class action status. Wal-Mart asked for a hearing before a larger group of judges.

Wal-Mart Executive Vice President and General Counsel Jeff Gearhart hailed the appeals court decision as a "positive step" in the litigation.

"It is important to note that the merits of this case have not been considered by the courts, and we believe the experiences alleged by the six individuals who brought this suit are not representative of the experiences of our female associates," Gearhart said in a statement.

If the lawsuit's class action status is reversed it could mean that the plaintiffs would need to proceed individually with legal action against the company.

Court papers indicate while women made up 65 percent of Wal-Mart's nonmanagement staff in 2001, but just 33 percent of department managers and 14 percent of the store managers were women.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

More News