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Entries in Walmart (42)

Tuesday
Jun212011

Workplace Discrimination: Transparency Key in Fight for Equality

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Walmart case, women across the country are re-examining the weapons they have in the fight against discrimination in the workplace. According to a new study, transparency is one of the best ways to battle inequality.

"More transparency almost always helps in fighting sex discrimination and other forms of discrimination because it exposes what the employer is doing," said Suzanne Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University. "Increased transparency is almost always a good thing because when hiring and promotion processes are more open there is less room for discrimination to flourish."

The study, from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, uncovered that secrecy is the norm in the private sector. Sixty percent of private sector employees are discouraged or forbidden from discussing their pay, reveals the study. This may be one of the reasons the pay gap between men and women is 23 percent in the private sector, while in the federal government, where transparency is mandated, the gap is only 11 percent.

Although the Walmart case struck a blow against class-action lawsuits, Goldberg says it just means that going forward cases will need to be more focused to succeed.

"This is not doomsday for sex discrimination class action. It does mean discrimination suits will be brought on a smaller scale, either on a per store or per unit basis, but sex discrimination suits will continue and will continue to force change in workplaces," Goldberg told ABC News. "I expect sex discrimination lawsuits to continue for as long as sex discrimination continues in workplaces, which unfortunately will be for the foreseeable future."

Goldberg said one of the most important things women can do is know what resources are available to them.

"It can be a very challenging process to bring a discrimination suit, which is why there are so few suits relative to the amount of discrimination in the workplace," she told ABC News. "The best first step for an employee that cannot afford a lawyer is to go to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency that enforces Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination law. Or to go to a state or local human rights commission that enforces state and local law because those agencies can sometimes provide lawyers to aid in bringing cases."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jun202011

High Court Sides With Wal-Mart in Gender-Bias Lawsuit

Spencer Platt / Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday stopped one of the largest employment discrimination cases in history from going forward. The case was brought by six female Wal-Mart employees who said they had been paid less than men in comparable positions despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

The case had blossomed into a class action lawsuit involving hundreds of thousands of female employees. The court was unanimous in saying that the case should not have been certified by the lower courts because it failed to meet the certification requirements for seeking damages of monetary relief.

However, the court's five conservative justices went further. They found that the women also failed to demonstrate that there were questions of law common to the entire class of nearly 1.5 million female employees.

"The court rejects the notion that Wal-Mart had a policy of discrimination that could form any kind of fair basis for a civil-rights class-action case," the ruling stated.

The plaintiffs had claimed they could prove Wal-Mart discriminated against all women employees by 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.

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summed up the argument: "Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware. The risk of discrimination is heightened when those managers are predominantly of one sex, and are steeped in a corporate culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes."

Scalia laughed this argument out of court, essentially. He called it "unbelievable," "worlds away from significant proof" of discrimination, and declared the court could "safely disregard" everything the plaintiffs' key expert had to say.

"In a company of Wal-Mart's size and scope," Scalia wrote, "it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common *direction.*" (emphasis added) "Merely showing that Wal-Mart's policy of discretion has produced an overall sex-based disparity does not suffice."

This is strongly pro-business ruling. It will make it harder for plaintiffs' lawyers to construct class actions in many fields, since what the court does here is tighten the law's demand that members of a class have suffered a truly, provably "common" wrong.

Walmart said the class action could include "every woman employed for any period of time over the past decade in any of Walmart's approximately 3,400 stores….the millions of class members collectively seek billions of dollars in monetary relief."

The action stems from a sexual discrimination suit filed by six women who worked in 13 stores who alleged they had been paid less than men in comparable positions, despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority.

In court papers, lawyers for the women said that the case needed to proceed as a class action because Walmart exercised a strong centralized corporate culture, and that class litigation "may be the only means of obtaining the broad injunctive relief necessary to address the allegedly discriminatory policies challenged."

The women were seeking injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May262011

Walmart Recalls GE Food Processors After Injuries, Fires Reported

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(WASHINGTON) -- Walmart issued a recall Wednesday of 255,000 food processors after receiving reports that the product caused fires and injuries to consumers' fingertips.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said the recall affects GE-branded, 14-cup food processors that were sold at the retail giant's U.S. stores and website for about $50 between September 2009 and February 2011.  The black and stainless steel-trimmed processors were made in China and have a model number of 169203.

Walmart has received 58 complaints about the product, 21 of which led to fingertip injuries and three of which resulted in fires.

According to the CPSC, the food processor's safety interlock system can fail, allowing it to start without its lid on and, therefore, pose a laceration threat to consumers.  The appliance could also emit smoke and catch fire.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May042011

Fortune 500 List 2011: Which Company Will Be No. 1?

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The 2011 Fortune 500 list, which names the most profitable companies in the country, will be announced Wednesday night on ABC’s Nightline.

With last year's list boasting heavyweights such as Wal-Mart, ExxonMobil, General Electric and AT&T, ABC News' John Berman reported that the Fortune 500 companies tripled their earnings in 2009. Did they improve on that in 2010?

"It's just a staggering amount of money that big companies made in 2009 versus 2008 -- $330 billion more than the year before. It's just an unprecedented gain," said Andy Serwer at the time. Serwer is the managing editor of Fortune magazine, which compiles an annual list of top public companies as measured by gross revenue.

Last year's champion was Walmart, pushing the once top seeded ExxonMobil to the number two slot.

"Walmart had a good year and maybe that's not surprising," Serwer said, "People really look for value during tough economic times."

Even still, the oil company didn't make out too shabby. Exxon was able to rake in more than $284 billion in profits last year.

So who will reign supreme on this year's Fortune 500 list? Tune into ABC's Nightline Wednesday at 11:35 p.m. ET to see the results.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar312011

Walmart CEO: Inflation 'Serious' Concern

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Walmart CEO Bill Simon says American consumers could face “serious” inflation in the coming months for clothing, food and other products.

“We saw it start to come in late last year -- commodities, certainly cotton,” Simon told USA Today’s editorial board on Wednesday. “There's a lot of the places showing up now in dairy, and we're starting to see it come into things that are transportation-related, like paper.”

Simon said his company is trying to keep costs down by working directly with its suppliers, but admitted that Walmart is “seeing cost increases starting to come through at a pretty rapid rate.”

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

Friday
Mar252011

Supreme Court to Rule Whether Female Employees Can Sue Walmart

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in a case that pits Walmart, the nation's largest private employer, against millions of former and current female employees who allege gender discrimination.

At issue before the court is whether the women can band together as a "class" and bring their case, or whether they must file on an individual basis.

If the court grants the women class certification, it most likely will become the largest employment class action suit in history, potentially involving every female worker employed at the company since 1998.

"The class is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined -- making it the largest employment class action in history by several orders of magnitude," said Walmart attorney Theodore J. Boutrous.

The case is being carefully watched by the business community, which fears that it could lead to an increase of similar suits and force big business into premature settlements out of fear of exposure to gigantic monetary awards in the billions of dollars.

The Chamber of Commerce issued a brief on the side of Walmart arguing that the lower court ruling that allowed the case to go forward as a class action, "will likely encourage an avalanche of new class action litigation on a broad array of subject matters, beyond employment issues."

But lawyers for the women said that fears of an avalanche are absurd.

"The reality is that we haven't even had a few snowflakes," said Joseph Sellers, who will argue on behalf of the women on Tuesday.

The district court heard months of evidence in the case and properly found that the women had met the standards of class certification, Sellers added.

Sellers and civil rights groups supporting the women said class action certification is essential to give anti-discrimination laws the force and intent they were meant to have.  They argued that the women, forced to file individually, would have neither the means nor the incentive to bring their case against such a large company.

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

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb022011

Walmart Donating $750,000 in Cash, Goods to Brazil Flood Victims

Photo Courtesy - Vanderlei Almeida/ AFP/Getty Images(BENTONVILLE, Ark.) -- Retail giant Walmart announced Wednesday that it is committing over $750,000 to help victims of flooding in Brazil.

The Walmart Foundation will donate $400,000 to be used towards long-term relief efforts and the purchase of critical items like water, food and medical supplies.  Campaigns by Walmart Brazil also helped raised nearly 100 tons of donations in goods, amounting to an estimated value of over $350,000.

All the donations will go towards emergency relief efforts in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where over 800 people died and thousands were displaced after torrential rains came down on the country last month, causing flooding and mudslides.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Jan302011

New Walmart Stores Face Opposition in Several Large Cities

Photo Courtesy - ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Retail giant Walmart has stores all across the country that provide large grocery stores in many markets where few alternatives exist. Now, the superstore chain is trying to move into the nation's biggest markets, where hordes of competition already exist.

In New York City, Walmart has clashed with the City Council, and the company now plans to take its fight to the airwaves by launching radio attack ads, according to a report by the New York Daily News. The paper says Walmart will also be sending mailers to homes that read, "You don't ask the special interests or the political insiders for permission to use the bathroom. So why should they decide where you're allowed to shop?"

The New York City Council, expected to hold another hearing to address the Walmart issue on Thursday, has claimed that the company does not pay workers enough, discriminates against women and gays, and hurts locally-run businesses.

In San Diego, Walmart faces similar opposition. The company announced plans this past week to build 12 new stores in the area, while on Tuesday the city council will consider repealing an ordinance that requires economic impact reports from developers of megastores. Unions had initially voted against allowing stores to be built in the area, but Walmart submitted a petition with over 50,000 signatures to force a special vote.

In larger markets like New York and San Diego, Walmart says it does not intend to build large stores, but rather a smaller version of its brand. In addition to the Supercenters that have replaced grocery stores in many communities, the company has also launched Walmart Neighborhood Market stores, which are about 80 percent smaller than their larger predecessors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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