Appeals court clears way for Wal-Mart class-action suit
Monday, April 26, 2010
Efforts by women employees — and labor activists — to force Wal-Mart to change what they see as discriminatory practices toward female employees received a big boost today when the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals voted 6-5 that a complaint over a two-tier system of wages and promotions can go to trial as a class-action suit.
Wal-Mart had argued that the women with complaints should file individual lawsuits against the firm and have them adjudicated on individual merits. As the Associated Press reported earlier today:
Wal-Mart employs 2.1 million workers in 8,000 stores worldwide and argued that the conventional rules of class action suits should not apply because each outlet operates as an independent business. Since it doesn’t have a companywide policy of discrimination, Wal-Mart argued that women alleging gender bias should file individual lawsuits against individual stores.
It also argued that whatever improper treatment the complainants think they suffered, those circumstances did not represent the experiences of all of Wal-Mart’s 1.5 million female employees. And, Wal-Mart argued, as a class action, the lawsuit would be too big for it to defend.
Tough, said the judges (though they used more words). That should take some of the bounce out of that annoying bouncing smiley face Wal-Mart uses in its advertising.