Wal-Mart Takes Gender Bias Case to Supreme Court

August 25, 2010 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – Wal-Mart has asked the nation’s high court to review an appellate ruling that allowed as many as 1.5 million women to sue the giant retailer as part of what would be the largest gender-bias class-action case in U.S. history.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court decided in April 2010 that women who have worked at Wal-Mart since 2001 should be permitted to move forward as a group to press their allegations the retailer paid women less than men for the same work and gave females fewer promotional opportunities (see Gender Discrimination Case Can Move Forward).

The case was filed in 2001 by six women, including Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart greeter in Pittsburg, California.

According to a Bloomberg news account, the retailer’s Supreme Court brief attacked the notion that the claims of a plaintiff class as large as in the Dukes case were similar enough to be tried together. “The class is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined — making it the largest employment class action in history by several orders of magnitude,” argued Wal-Mart, according to Bloomberg.

In a brief statement posted to its corporate Web site, the Bentonville, Arkansas-based company pointed out that the 9th Circuit decision was directed at the class certification issue and not to the merits of the plainitiffs’ claims.

“In our petition (for Supreme Court review), we point out that this case involves important issues about class action procedure and Title VII, and that the Ninth Circuit’s opinion contradicts numerous decisions of other appellate courts and even the Supreme Court itself,” the Wal-Mart statement said. “…Walmart is an excellent place for women to work and has been recognized as a leader in fostering the advancement and success of women in the workplace.”