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Wal-Mart workers limit gender-bias suit to California stores

The filing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court in June barred the case as a class action covering all U.S. stores, saying the workers failed to prove Wal-Mart had a nationwide policy that led to gender discrimination.

October 28, 2011|Bloomberg News

Lawyers for women who originally sued Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for sex discrimination on behalf of 1 million co-workers nationwide have amended the lawsuit, limiting it to gender-bias claims by California workers.

The filing comes four months after the U.S. Supreme Court in June barred the case as a class action covering all U.S. stores, saying the women failed to prove that the world's largest retailer had a nationwide policy that led to gender discrimination. The Supreme Court sent the suit back to federal court in San Francisco, where it was first filed in 2001.

The new filing alleges that Wal-Mart blocked women in California from promotions and paid them less in management and hourly positions than men doing comparable work. Lawyers for the women said they amended the suit to respond to the Supreme Court's rejection of the nationwide class.

"The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the action, but only ruled that the class as certified could not proceed," they said in the filing Thursday. "It did not preclude prosecution of a class that was consistent with its newly announced guidelines and standards."

The amended lawsuit was filed by five current or former company employees on behalf of all women working in California Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores from December 1998 to the present. At least 95,000 current and former female Wal-Mart workers may be covered by the new complaint, said Brad Seligman, an attorney for the employees.

The new filing won't answer the Supreme Court's concerns, said attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who represents Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart.

"The Supreme Court rejected these very same class action theories when it reversed the plaintiffs' lawyers' last effort in June," he said. "The plaintiffs' lawyers do not come close to meeting the standards for obtaining class certification and their arguments still rely on the same incorrect and discredited theories that the Supreme Court repudiated."

The California action is the first of "an armada of cases" to be filed against Wal-Mart on behalf of female employees in individual states or regions, said attorney Joseph Sellers, who also represents the women.

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