Trials & Litigation

Wal-Mart Asks Supreme Court to Put the Brakes On Massive Employment Class Action

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A federal appeals court gave the green light four months ago to a record-breaking employment discrimination case against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that has been in the pipeline almost a decade.

But now the gargantuan retailer is appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, reports the New York Times.

If allowed to proceed, the class action would be the largest employment discrimination suit in American history, involving more than 1 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores. It alleges systemic discrimination against women, concerning both pay and promotion opportunities.

A Wal-Mart spokesman denied such discrimination, contending that employment conditions for women workers have steadily improved and that nearly half of the assistant managers at Wal-Mart stores are now female. The company also argues that the lead plaintiffs in the case are not typical of its women workers.

Several plaintiffs say this reflects changes the company has been forced to make by their lawsuit, even as Wal-Mart fights it.

“We’ve already won because they already had to change their policies toward women because of us,” lead plaintiff Stephanie Odle tells the newspaper. A single mother at the time, she contends she was paid tens of thousands of dollars less than a male assistant manager–who, she was allegedly told, had “a family and two children to support”–and not given an opportunity to take a promotional test offered to the men in her position.

Earlier coverage: “Divided 9th Cir. Green Lights Massive Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Suit” “NY Times: Akin Gump Warned Wal-Mart of Risky Gender-Related Pay & Promotion Practices”

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