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Divided 9th Cir. Green Lights Massive Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Suit

Posted Apr 26, 2010 2:33 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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In a 6-5 ruling today, the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals gave a green light to a massive 2001 class action suit by female workers of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that is reportedly the biggest class action suit ever.

The plaintiffs can now proceed to trial; Wal-Mart, which is the world's largest private employer, had sought to require them to pursue their claims of discriminatory wages and promotions individually, reports the Associated Press.

"No court has ever certified a class like this one, until now. And with good reason," writes Judge Sandra Ikuta in dissent. "In this case, six women who have worked in thirteen of Wal-Mart's 3,400 stores seek to represent every woman who has worked in those stores over the course of the last decade—a class estimated in 2001 to include more than 1.5 million women."

Attorney Brad Seligman is lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. He says they may number more than 1 million, reports Bloomberg.

A representative for the giant retailer, which has denied discriminating, says Wal-Mart is working on a statement.

If the case is decided in the plaintiffs' favor, "Wal-Mart has potentially huge liability," associate professor Paul Secunda of Marquette University Law School tells Reuters. Total damages, he says, could be "many billions."

Secunda also writes on Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog that a separate dissent by Judge Alex Kozinski is "fodder for a cert petition, and I do believe this case is heading for a Supreme Court showdown."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "NY Times: Akin Gump Warned Wal-Mart of Risky Gender-Related Pay & Promotion Practices"

Last updated on June 9 to link to subsequent ABAJournal.com post.

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