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Entries in Sex Discrimination (3)

Thursday
Oct272011

Walmart Plaintiffs File Amended Sex Discrimination Complaint

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a big defeat at the Supreme Court last spring, current and former female Walmart employees filed an amended complaint in federal court Thursday hoping to band together as a smaller class and sue the retailing behemoth for sex discrimination.

Last spring, the Supreme Court ruled that the original case, which had grown into a challenge involving hundreds of thousands of female employees across the country and potentially billions of dollars, could not go forward.

Plaintiffs had claimed they could prove Walmart discriminated against all women employees by using statistics, by alleging that the company’s corporate culture was suffused with gender stereotypes, and by pointing to the company’s practice of allowing local managers wide discretion in hiring and promoting, which supposedly allowed those stereotypes to impact the lives of women employees.

However, Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for himself and the other conservative justices on the bench, ruled that the women failed to prove a common practice or policy of discrimination at Walmart that would allow them to band together and bring the suit.

The amended complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, limits the potential class to current and former employees who worked in the company’s California stores. Experts say the plaintiffs will have to do more than show their newly constructed class of employees is smaller.

Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Walmart, said he believes the courts will ultimately reject the class action suit.

“As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different and because the claims of the plaintiffs are not representative of the thousands of women that work in Walmart,” he said. “The fact is, the statewide class that the plaintiff’s lawyers now propose is no more appropriate then the nationwide class that the Supreme Court has already rejected. ”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers say in the coming months they will file similar, smaller class action suits across the country.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Supreme Court Justices Seem Leery of Walmart Plaintiffs

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Several Supreme Court justices seemed skeptical Tuesday of the arguments made by an attorney on behalf of female plaintiffs that they should be allowed to band together and sue Walmart for sex discrimination.

The nation's largest private employer provided its managers with unchecked discretion that led to widespread sexual discrimination and women being paid less than men despite more seniority and higher performance, Joseph Sellers argued before the court.

But Walmart said a lower court was wrong to allow hundreds of thousands of current and former female employees to join forces and sue the company.

"The company has a very strong policy against discrimination and in favor of diversity, " lawyer Theodore Boutrous Jr. argued on behalf of the retail giant.

If the Supreme Court allows the case to go forward, it would be the largest employment discrimination class-action suit in history involving potentially billions of dollars.

Sellers said Walmart has a "very strong corporate culture" and that it allows its managers "broad discretion," which he called the "Walmart way."

But Justice Anthony Kennedy challenged Sellers, saying, "It's not clear to me what the unlawful policy that Walmart has adopted, under your theory of the case.

"Your complaint faces in two directions. Number one, you said this is a culture where...headquarters knows everything that's going on. Then in the next breath, you say, well, now these supervisors have too much discretion," he said.

Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with Kennedy. "I'm getting whipsawed here," he said.

"It's either the individual supervisors are left on their own, or else there is a strong corporate culture that tells them what to do."

The case stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed in 2001 by six female employees alleging they had been paid less than men in comparable positions in violation of Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination. As word spread, dozens and dozens of women joined the suit and a district court ruled the case could go forward on behalf of all similarly situated women.

The Supreme Court is not addressing the merits of the sex discrimination claims, only whether the women can go forward as a class.

Walmart argues that in order to qualify as a class, the women need to satisfy the so-called "commonality requirement."

"The commonality requirement is part of the rule of civil procedure governing class actions," class-action litigation expert Andrew Trask said. "It means that the women's claims have to be similar enough so that if you prove one woman's claim, you have proven every woman's claim."

Outside court Tuesday, Betty Dukes, one of the original plaintiffs who works as a greeter at Walmart, agreed.

"Walmart may be a big company, " she said, "but they're not big enough where they can't be challenged in a court of law. If you do wrong, then you should be held accountable, from the least of us to the greatest of us."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar292011

Supreme Court to Hear Whether Millions of Female Employees Can Sue Walmart

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When Christine Kwapnoski of Concord, Calif., told her boss at a division of Walmart that she wanted a job promotion, she said, he told her to "blow the cobwebs off your makeup" and to "doll up" in order to advance.

Instead, she joined five other female employees and filed a sexual discrimination suit against the company 10 years ago alleging that women had been paid less than men in comparable positions in violation of Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination.

As word of the suit spread, dozens and dozens of women joined in and a lower court ruled that the case could go forward on behalf of all current and former female employees since 1998.

Kwapnoski will be at the Supreme Court Tuesday when the justices hear arguments on whether the lower court was correct in allowing the women to band together to file their lawsuit, or whether they must file as individuals.

If the court rules in favor of the women and grants them "class certification," it will most likely become the largest employment class-action suit in history, involving potentially millions of women and billions of dollars.

A decision is likely to come in early summer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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