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Lawsuit Focuses on Battle for Equal Opportunity

July 01, 2001|JACQUELINE FITZGERALD | CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Whether the courts find merit in a lawsuit filed last month accusing Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of systematically discriminating against thousands of female workers, the news was a reminder that progress on the equal opportunity front is slow.

Wal-Mart rejected the charges in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart.

Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed, said the suit contrasts with reports of employers who "are so far ahead and doing positive things and view equal opportunity as a business advantage."

But over the last decade, sexual discrimination charges have consistently accounted for about 30% of all charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to agency spokesman David Grinberg.

"[Discrimination] doesn't have to be systematic to be pernicious. Because it's institutionalized, it remains invisible," said Ellen Bravo, co-director of Milwaukee-based 9to5 National Assn. of Working Women.

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