Woman takes another shot at Wal-Mart class action

Michelle Keahey Nov. 1, 2011, 11:31am


DALLAS (Legal Newsline) - Four months after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to certify a nationwide class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, a former plaintiff has initiated a class action against the retail giant that could include up to 45,000 female Texas employees.

On behalf of herself and others similarly situated, Stephanie Odle filed the gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Friday in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division.

In a 5-4 June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to a lawsuit alleging the store discriminated against up to 1.5 million female employees.

"The basic theory of their case is that a strong and uniform corporate culture permits bias against women to infect, perhaps subconsciously, the discretionary decision making of each one of Wal-Mart's thousands of managers," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.

He wrote that any competently crafted class action complaint raises common questions.

"Reciting these questions is not sufficient to obtain class certification," he wrote. "Commonality requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the class members have suffered the same injury."

The new lawsuit charges that the store discriminated against its Texas female employees with regard to pay and promotion decisions. Specifically, the lawsuit states that Wal-Mart denied promotions to management track positions to female employees by the lack of formal application procedures and lack of weighted requirements for promotions as well as through the reliance of biased and discriminatory views about women.

According to the lawsuit, Odle was hired by Sam's Club in 1991 as an hourly associate. Odle alleges she was discriminated against by management while she worked at the Sherman Sam's Club in 1999.

According to court documents, she was suspended for five days regarding a $250 legitimate refund she made to a customer. Odle was transferred to the Lubbock store shortly thereafter.

At this location, Odle alleges she was denied the ability to take a skills assessment test, a critical step in the promotion process. About a week after she complained about her treatment, she claims she was suspended due to a $13.74 account adjustment made during training. She was replaced by a male manager and terminated after the investigation was concluded, according to the suit.

Odle was part of the original nationwide class action that was filed in 2001 on behalf of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers. The U.S. Supreme Court broke up the class action in June after finding that female employees with different jobs, different supervisors and at different stores did not have enough in common to be a single-class action lawsuit.

Odle is asking for an injunction against Wal-Mart prohibiting it from the described unlawful discriminatory practices and for an award of back pay, front pay, general and special damages for lost compensation and job benefits, exemplary and punitive damages, court costs, attorney's fees and interest.

The proposed class is represented by Dallas attorneys Hal K. Gillespie, Yona Rozen and Joseph H. Gillespie of Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky PC. Additional counsel includes Stephen Tinkler with the Tinkler Law Firm in Santa Fe, N.M.; Merit Bennett of Bennett Law Firm in Santa Fe, N.M.; Brad Seligman of The Impact Fun in Berkeley, Calif.; and Joseph Sellers of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C.

A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Reed C. O'Connor is assigned to the case.

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