Wal-Mart Asks Judge to Toss Sex Bias Suit

Betty Dukes
Betty Dukes

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lawyers have asked a federal judge to toss out the fourth version of the sex discrimination lawsuit by former female workers for the store in court papers filed this week.  The plaintiffs reduced the size of the original case from millions of potential class members to 95,000 in a California regional lawsuit. 

This came in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision that the massive class could not be certified as a class because the claims of so many plaintiffs were too divergent to make it work as a class case.  (Wal-Mart Starts, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2541(2011).

The fourth version of the lawsuit, while smaller, “is just another bite at the same apple,”  according to the motion to dismiss the case.  U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer set May 11 to hear arguments on the move to throw out the case.

“Wal-Mart does not at this time challenge the named plaintiffs’ ability to pursue their own individual claims of discrimination,” according to Ted Boutrous Jr., attorney for the retailer.  He argues that the “attempt to cobble back together the original class badly misses the point; without the ‘glue’ of a common policy or practice holding individual claims together, there is no justification for adjudicating them collectively,” he wrote.

  The suit is the fourth iteration of the decade-old long battle to certify the largest employment discrimination class action.  Plaintiffs’ attorney Brad Seligman says he has new evidence against Wal-Mart.

The suit alleges a long-standing “good old boy philosophy” within the company and claims many managers are closed minded about workplace diversity.

The suit states that in 2004 Wal-Mart CEO Thomas Coughlin told managers at a national meeting that the key to success is “single focus to get the job done” and that “women tend to be better at information processing. Men are better at single focus objective.”

Managers were told to create a “culture of execution” and a “culture of results” as they picked leaders, according to the lawsuit.

Seligman said this is the first in a series of geographic cases that will be filed, against Wal-Mart based on “evidence we have” of systematic discrimination.  The Supreme Court found the original lawsuit claiming a class of potentially millions of women was too large and too varied to survive as a class action.

Betty Dukes, an African-American woman living on Contra Costa County remains the lead plaintiff in the case and is still employed by the Pleasanton Wal-Mart.

Case:  Dukes v. Wal-Mart Inc., No. 01-cv-2252CRB

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