The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer Wal-Mart faces a class action suit for gender discrimination that could go down as the biggest class action in American history. In an 84-page order issued at the end of April, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled 6-5 that Wal-Mart can face class action charges that it discriminated against female employees. The class will include around 1.5 million women – all female employees who worked for the retailer from December 26, 1998 onwards. Six women will represent the class. The titular claimant, Betty Dukes, worked as a greeter at a California Wal-Mart and sued the store in 2001. Wal-Mart operates more than 3,400 stores. If the litigation goes to trial, and the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs, Wal-Mart may have to pay out literally billions in damages.
What Claimants Seek in this Giant Gender Discrimination Suit
According to allegations, Wal-Mart’s culture facilitated discrimination against female employees. Women earned less than male counterparts and found it harder to climb the corporate ladder. Plaintiffs point out that 70% of Wal-Mart’s hourly paid workers are women; whereas only around 30% of its managers are women. The plaintiffs seek punitive damages and back pay.
The Ninth Circuit Court had to resolve whether the sheer size of the class would make the dispatch of any case unmanageable. Judge Michael Hawkins, who voted in favor of the certification, wrote that “although the size of this class action is large, mere size does not render a case unmanageable.” A dissenting judge disagreed and wrote that “no court has ever certified a case like this one, until now, and with good reason.”
For its part, Wal-Mart has denied allegations of gender discrimination and general employee discrimination. A company statement said, “we do not believe the claims alleged by the six individuals who brought the suit are representative of the experiences of our female associates.”
Wal-Mart has numerous options at its disposal, including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to attempt to decertify the class action.
If you or a family member has experienced sexual harassment, gender discrimination, or any other kind of employment discrimination, options are available. The New York based law firm of Joseph & Kirschenbaum can provide a no-nonsense, no obligation consultation about your pressing discrimination claim. Call us at (212) 688-5640, or email to get immediate assistance through our website at www.jhllp.com.