Wal-Mart’s ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit will continue in California after a federal judge rejected the company’s request to dismiss the case last week. The California class action suit alleges that Wal-Mart discriminated against its female employees by withholding equal pay and promotion opportunities.
This is the latest twist in an 11-year saga that began in San Francisco. The United States Supreme Court ruled last year that the case could not proceed as a national class action. If a lawsuit meets certain criteria, multiple employees can combine their claims into a class action and pursue them together against a common defendant. In employment cases, class actions often make sense because the same employer has habitually wronged a large group of plaintiffs.
Wal-Mart convinced the Supreme Court that pay and promotion decisions occurred at relatively low levels in the company and thus were not closely related enough to resolve the dispute as a national class. As a result, the employees are now pursuing the same claims on a state-by-state basis.
Even broken up by state, Wal-Mart’s female employees comprise a very large group of plaintiffs. So Wal-Mart once again argued that the claims are insufficiently similar to proceed. This time, however, the district court disagreed and will allow the lawsuit to continue.
Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. Employees who believe their employer has made a decision solely because of gender should consult an experienced California employment law attorney.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Wal-Mart gender-bias lawsuit continues,” Sept. 22, 2012