Cuban Former Wal-Mart Employees Can Sue over Bias

May 11, 2011 ( - Former Wal-Mart Stores Inc. warehouse workers of Cuban origin may pursue a lawsuit accusing the retailer of discrimination and retaliation.

Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge James Zagel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois allowed the plaintiffs to pursue a claim under federal civil rights law alleging discrimination on the basis of ethnic characteristics. Zagel rejected Wal-Mart’s argument that because the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges were based on national origin discrimination and not racial discrimination, “the essence” of the plaintiffs’ claim could not be discrimination based on ethnic characteristics.   

“Plaintiffs allege that they have dark-colored skin, eyes and hair and that they are members of a racial minority, which could give rise to an inference of racial animus,” the judge wrote, according to Reuters.   

The news report said three Cuban employees accused Wal-Mart last October of paying them less and giving them different work schedules than non-Cuban workers and denying them “make-up” days. The men also said their supervisors ignored a half-dozen complaints before firing them in November 2006 in retaliation.   

They filed charges with the EEOC, which found reasonable cause for a lawsuit.   

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter told Reuters: “We’re pleased the court has dismissed important aspects of the case and we strongly disagree with the claims.” He also said the company has strong policies against discrimination.   

A lawyer for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a call seeking comment.  

The case is Padron et al. vs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 10-06656.