U.S. District Judge David R. Herndon of the Southern District of Illinois ruled that 4800 women would be allowed to file a class action sex discrimination lawsuit against Rent-A-Center, a nationwide retailer of rent-to-own appliances and furniture. The women are seeking $410 million in damages claiming that company executives methodically fired female employees and made it a policy not to hire women. The evidence in favor of the plaintiffs is notable. Several witnesses have testified that Rent-A-Center CEO J. Ernest Talley and several other company executives and managers made comments such as: “The day I hire a woman will be a cold day in hell;” “In case you didn’t notice, we do not employ women;” “I regularly throw away women’s applications;” and “You were fired because you are a woman.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has investigated female employees’ claims and found that 98 percent of Rent-A-Center employees are male.
Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal commenting on the Rent-A-Center case said, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2002. Just in case, we thought these fights were over, think again. A case of such blatant sex-discrimination like this one would have been shocking in the 1980s.”
Rent-A-Center, which owns 2200 stores throughout the country, currently has several other sex discrimination lawsuits pending.