US Court Rejects Class Action Certification Sought By Wal-Mart's Women Employees In Gender Bias Case

 
on August 03 2013 9:44 AM
Wal-Mart
Walmart Reuters

A  U.S. judge on Friday rejected an attempt to file a class action suit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT), over gender discrimination allegations, on behalf of about 150,000 female employees in the company’s California offices.

The California law suit, in which the female employees sought class certification, was a downsized version of a 2011 complaint, which sought to represent about 1.6 million women employed in Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The U.S. Supreme Court had dismissed the 2011 petition that claimed male employees in Wal-Mart enjoyed better pay and faster promotions compared to women employees, ruling that it found no conclusive evidence of widespread gender discrimination in the company’s policies.

The court also had opined that it was difficult to bring all women working under different jobs in Wal-Mart’s more than 3,400 stores under one class action suit.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the women’s lawyers filed smaller class action suits, alleging sexual discrimination at Wal-Mart’s stores in different states and regions.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who dismissed the California lawsuit, said that the motion did not qualify for a class protection because the plaintiffs could not prove that Wal-Mart’s policies governing compensation and promotions were similar across all stores and affected all female employees in a similar fashion.  

"Though plaintiffs insist that they have presented an entirely different case from the one the Supreme Court rejected, it is essentially a scaled-down version of the same case with new labels on old arguments," Breyer wrote.

The court also said that the women failed to provide statistical evidence of gender bias in the company’s general policies, and that the anecdotal evidence presented in the court reflected the views of about five percent of the company’s top management, Reuters reported.

“Moreover, as Plaintiffs themselves recognize they have not amassed sufficient anecdotal evidence of bias and stereotyped thinking among management to establish significant proof of a general policy of discrimination within any management group, top or otherwise,” Breyer said.

However, the court said that the ruling does not consider “whether plaintiffs themselves were victims of discrimination as alleged in their complaint; those individual claims shall proceed in this litigation," according to the Reuters report.

Wal-Mart said that the company was pleased with the court’s ruling and it has had a strong policy against gender discrimination in place for many years.  

"We've said all along that if someone believes they have been treated unfairly, they deserve to have their timely, individual claims heard in court," the Bentonville, Ark.-based Company, said in a statement.  

Plaintiffs' attorney Randy Renick said he was disappointed with the court’s ruling and planned to appeal the ruling.  

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