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Wal-Mart to get new hearing on workplace-bias class-action case

February 16, 2009|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has granted Wal-Mart Stores Inc. a new hearing to decide whether plaintiffs grouped in a nationwide class-action case will instead be required to file separate lawsuits.

A majority of judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the issue should be heard by an 11-judge panel, but a hearing date has not yet been determined.

Six female employees sued the Bentonville, Ark.-based company in 2001, saying they were paid less than men and promoted less frequently.

In 2004, a federal judge approved class-action status. That ruling made it possible for almost every woman who had worked for Wal-Mart since December 1998 to join the suit.

The company argues that bias claims should not be grouped in one suit and instead be judged individually. If class-action status is upheld, Wal-Mart would have a single jury trial in which to defend its practice, with billions of dollars at stake.

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