Wal-Mart’s Female Employees Try Again for Class-Action Certification
In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Florida, a group of female Walmart employees alleged they have been denied promotional opportunities and aren’t being paid the same rates as their male counterparts in both hourly retail positions and salaried management positions. The complaint, which seeks class-action status, also addresses specific discriminatory measures regarding relocation and travel requirements for management positions. Many of the women began working for the world’s largest retailer back in the 1990s and are familiar with former claims made against their employer.
The case is left-over from the Dukes versus Walmart Stores Inc. issue, which was a 2001 lawsuit alleging the retailer had a history of discriminating against its female employees for promotions, compensation, on-the-job training opportunities, and specific job assignments. This lawsuit was granted class-action certification in 2004 with 1.6 employees being represented in the class.
Then, in 2011, the United States Supreme Court reversed the decision for class certification and rolled out revised guidelines for employment discrimination class-action lawsuits. The conservative judges decided the complaints were too dissimilar to be included in one filing. “In a company of Walmart’s size and geographical scope, it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the court’s decision.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, representing the dissenters, wrote that “gender bias suffused Walmart’s corporate culture.” But, all court members agreed that those who felt they had been discriminated against by the retailer were not discriminated against in the same way. Betty Dukes, the named plaintiff in the suit, passed away last July. Seven plaintiffs in the recent filing, Forbes v. Walmart Stores Inc., were members of the national class certified in Dukes.
“The class the plaintiffs now allege is no more appropriate than the nationwide class the Supreme Court has already rejected,” Randy Hargrove, a Walmart spokesman, said. “These claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different, and because the claims are not representative of the hundreds of thousands of women who work at Walmart.”
However, the latest complaint addresses the court’s revised guidelines and focuses on allegations of Walmart employees based only in the southeastern U.S. rather than in the entire country, which creates a more unified group with similar complaints.
The filing states: “Walmart maintained a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in compensation and promotion. And, in each of the above regions, the compensation and promotion policies and practices of Walmart had a disparate impact, not justified by business necessity, on its female employees in the region.”
These allegations represent only one of approximately 2,000 claims that have been filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming bias in pay and promotions at Walmart since the court’s decision in 2011. The retailer has taken a lot of heat from dissatisfied employees and its sub-par employment practices are no secret.
The plaintiffs are seeking a monetary award to include any back pay and damages due to lost compensation and employment benefits. Walmart has 94,000 employees and 293 stores in total.