Judge Rules Six Can Become 1.6 Million For Suit

Jun 23, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It took U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins nine months to decide whether a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by six women against Wal-Mart should be granted class-action status.

Once he made his ruling, however, the number of plaintiffs in the case grew from the original six to include as many as 1.6 million other female employees who have worked at Wal-Mart stores since 1998.

To support his decision granting class-action status, the judge said statistics show “women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region … that the salary gap widens over time.”

Joseph Sellers, an attorney for the plaintiffs said of the judge’s ruling, “I think it’s a terrific victory for the women who work at Wal-Mart who have labored for years under working conditions where they have been told repeatedly they have been unsuitable for management and not suitable to make as much as men.”

Wal-Mart offered a released statement attributed to the company’s chief spokesperson, Mona Williams.

“Let’s keep in mind that today’s ruling has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case. Judge Jenkins is simply saying he thinks it meets the legal requirements necessary to move forward as a class action. We strongly disagree with his decision and will seek an appeal.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the litigation, we can say we continue to evaluate our employment practices. For example, earlier this month Wal-Mart announced a new job classification and pay structure for hourly associates. This new pay plan was developed with the assistance of third party consultants and is designed to ensure internal equity and external competitiveness.”

Moderator’s Comment: What are your thoughts on the
ramifications of yesterday’s federal court ruling granting class-action status
in the sexual discrimination suit brought against Wal-Mart?

As the headline in a Toronto Globe and Mail correctly
points out, being the world’s largest retailer makes Wal-Mart a very big target.
It doesn’t necessarily make it guilty though. Wal-Mart and others are correct
that Judge Jenkins’ ruling really only marks the beginning of the case.

George Anderson – Moderator

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