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Wal-Mart gender-bias lawsuit continues

The company had asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit filed on behalf of female workers in California. The U.S. Supreme Court had tossed out a nationwide class-action suit against the firm.

September 22, 2012|Bloomberg News

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lost a bid to dismiss an 11-year-old gender discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of workers in California after the U.S. Supreme Court barred a lawsuit representing Wal-Mart employees nationwide.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said in an order Friday that the plaintiffs have proposed a reduced class size to between one and several hundred thousand members.

The reduced class could be certified, Breyer wrote, if it made a showing consistent with the Supreme Court's decision that a nationwide class action isn't appropriate.

Breyer rejected Wal-Mart's bid to dismiss the case, an argument made on grounds that even the reduced class size suffers from the problems that led the Supreme Court to bar a nationwide class certification, according to the ruling. Breyer said he reserves for later determination if the class should be certified.

The sex-bias case was originally filed in San Francisco in 2001 by women at a handful of Wal-Mart stores claiming that they were denied pay and promotions. It was eventually certified as a class action, or group lawsuit, covering more than 1 million employees after lawyers for the workers convinced a judge that Wal-Mart's employment policies meant that women at hundreds of stores across the country were subject to similar treatment.

Class certification provides leverage to plaintiffs in financing the lawsuit and negotiating a settlement. Wal-Mart appealed the certification, saying hiring and promotion decisions were made by local managers and each claim of discrimination should be handled in individual lawsuits.

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