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Appeals court rules for plaintiff in Wal-Mart discrimination case

There has been yet another ruling related to the gender bias allegations by female Wal-Mart employees. As we noted here last August, in 2001, a class-action suit representing about 1.6 million employees was filed against the retail giant. On March 31, a federal appeals court overturned the ruling of a federal judge who decided that one plaintiff in that original suit exceeded the statute of limitations for filing another claim.

The plaintiff’s suit contends that the company did not provide the same opportunities for women to obtain management positions as their male colleagues. The former assistant manager claimed that she was fired when she sought consideration for a higher position in the company.

The plaintiff had been part of the original suit against Wal-Mart. However, in 2010, California’s 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco ruled that former employees did not have standing to be included in the suit. The following year, the Texas woman filed a narrower class-action suit alleging that Wal-Mart’s “policies and practices” in that state discriminated against women. However, a Dallas district judge ruled that she had not filed her claim within the statute of limitations of 90 days after the 9th Circuit ruling.

With this latest ruling by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, the plaintiff’s suit may be reconsidered because the San Francisco court had extended the statute of limitations through Oct. 28, 2011 — a deadline the plaintiff met. The federal appeals court pointed out that the 9th Circuit’s ruling had not been “a final, adverse resolution of class certification for former employees,” but only that they could not be included in the class-action with current employees.

Obviously, the fight is not over for these former Wal-Mart employees. It remains to be seen if they can move forward as one or more classes. Back in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that current employees could not all file one class-action suit, because they did not have enough in common.

Employees or former employees who believe that they have suffered due to a pattern of discrimination by a company or other entity would be wise to consider, in consultation with legal advisors, the possibility of a class-action suit. This type of suit can sometimes be an easier and more powerful method for plaintiffs to seek damages and justice than an individual suit.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “New Life to Gender Bias Claims Against Wal-Mart” David Lee, Apr. 01, 2014

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