Wal-Mart Sex Bias Suit Marches On

Betty Dukes
Betty Dukes

More than a decade old and still the Wal-Mart sex discrimination lawsuit marches on. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer refused Wal-Mart Stores Inc. request to dismiss the case once and for all.  But the suit will be smaller.

Breyer’s order Friday accepted the smaller size of the class to a few hundred thousand members, down from more than a million.

Wal-Mart had argued that even the reduced size of the newly configured class had problems that prompted the U.S. Supreme Court to nix a nationwide class certification.

Several women employed by Wal-Mart in the San Francisco Bay Area, led by Betty Dukes, brought the suit in 2001 claiming they were denied equal pay and promotions.  Despite years of battling it was eventually certified as a nationwide class covering more than one million workers in hundreds of stores around the U.S.

The lawyers argued that women were treated to similar sex discrimination across the company.

Wal-Mart appealed the certification all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately overturned the class certification.

The high court said there was insufficient proof that a nationwide class of female workers faced widespread gender discrimination.  Isolated discrimination, if it existed, in some areas was not enough to support a case of company-wide patterns of discrimination to support legal claims that it amounted to a general policy.

The narrowed case now alleges past and present female Wal-Mart workers were subjected to gender discrimination in four regions, largely based in California, in contrast to the 41 regions that comprised the national class.

The basic claims in the suit are unchanged from the ones rejected by the SUprme Court, there are simply fewer women in the class.

But lawyers for the women say they now have more evidence of a “culture and philosophy of gender bias shared by the relevant decision makers.”

They now also allege that “at a meeting of all district managers, Wal-Mart’s CEO made statements that could be interpreted as communicating that men had traits that were more likely to make them successful.”

Now the women will have to prove it.

Breyer ordered them to file a new motion for class certification by January 11, 2013.  A  hearing on the issue will be February 15.

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

 

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