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2003-04-30
San Francisco, CA. Wal-Mart Facing Major Sex Discriminaton Class Action Suit.

Wal-Mart sells lots of apparel, but they never seem to run out of lawsuits. The company is the most sued corporation in America, and is involved in "a number of legal proceedings" including "antitrust, consumer, employment, tort" and other litigation. In addition to being sued by its own workers in 33 potential class action lawsuits in 31 states for forcing associates to work 'off the clock', Wal-Mart is now a defendant in Dukes v. Wal-Mart stores. As Wal-Mart describes it, the Dukes case, which could involve as many as 1.5 million of its female employees, "alleges that the company has a pattern and practice of discriminating against women in promotions, pay, training and job assignments. The complaint seeks, among other things, injunctive relief, compensatory damages including front pay and back pay, punitive damages, and attorney fees." This week in San Francisco U.S. District Court, lawyers for the women workers filed a motion for class action certification. The motion asks the judge to allow the case to go to trial on behalf of all women who have worked at Wal-Mart stores in America since December 26, 1998. This would make the case the largest employment discrimination case ever filed -- bigger than a similar case at Home Depot several years ago which resulted in a payment by Home Depot in excess of $100 million. The motion filed this week names 110 women who worked at 184 Wal-Mart stores, and charges that 2 out of 3 Wal-Mart workers are women, but only 1 in 3 store management positions are held by women, and less than 1 in 6 store manager positions are women. The motion claims that Wal-Mart payroll data shows that women are paid less than men with the same seniority, even though women had higher performance ratings and less turnover. According to a Business Wire report, Wal-Mart's own documents suggest that the company is "behind the rest of the world" in promoting women to management positions. "Women are treated as second class employees at Wal-Marts from Florida to Alaska," said a spokesman for The Impact Fund, which is coordinating the lawsuit. "This is not just an isolated or local problem. Wal-Mart has known about this for years and has refused to act." The lawsuit charges that senior management at Wal-Mart used demeaning stereotypes of women, and that female managers were forced to go to Hooters sports bars and strip clubs for office outings. One manager in Texas told a female employee that women have to be 'bitches' to survive Wal-Mart management. Another manager in California told a women she should "doll up" to get promoted. A female personnel manager in Florida was told by her manager that "men are here to make a career and women aren't. Retail is for housewives who just need to earn extra money."

What you can do: The class action motion will be heard by the Court on July 25, 2003. Wal-Mart tried to get the case moved from San Francisco to Arkansas. Materials about the case can be found at www.walmartclass.com, or at www.cmht.com. To prepare its stockholders for the eventuality that this case could cost Wal-Mart a considerable amount of money, the company put the following disclaimer in its Annual Report: "If the Court certifies a class in this action and there is an adverse verdict on the merits, the Company may be subject to liability for damages that could be material to the Company and to employment-related injunctive measures that could be material to the Company and result in increased costs of operations on an ongoing basis."










 
 
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