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Supreme Court to Hear Appeal in Wal-Mart Gender Discrimination Case

On Monday, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear Wal-Mart’s appeal of an April decision by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the lawsuit to receive class-action status. Plaintiffs in the case allege that Wal-Mart systematically discriminated through lower wages and fewer promotions for women employees. The Supreme Court will not rule on whether Wal-Mart discriminated against its employees, but rather whether the 500,000 to 1.5 million women who work or have worked for Wal-Mart can sue the retailer together as a single class. Wal-Mart claims that the female employees should not be considered a class because the company does not have a company-wide discrimination policy and each outlet store acts as an independent business. The case could set a precedent for what constitutes a class. Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation clarified, “The outcome of the case will impact all women employees and their ability to take sex discrimination in employment lawsuits.” The initial lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes, a former Wal-Mart employee, and six other plaintiffs who worked in 13 of the chain’s 3,400 US stores. Since the lawsuit received class-action status, the women are seeking what could be billions of dollars in punitive damages and back pay for gendered wage discrepancies for all female employees of Wal-Mart since 1998.

Sources:

Feminist Majority Foundation 12/7/10; Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes 12/6/10; New York Times 12/6/10; Associated Press 12/6/10; Wal-Mart Press Release 12/6/10

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