March 1st, 2013

In 2011, retail giant Wal-Mart dodged a bullet when the U.S. Supreme Court held that a nationwide class action supported by a class of women claiming that they were discriminated against could not continue. The court explained that the claims were too tenuous in nature to fit the description of being “claims in common” as required under federal law.

However, the court’s decision implicitly gave permission for a number of regional class action suits to be brought against the world’s largest retailer. Since the landmark decision, four class action bias suits have been filed in Texas, Tennessee, California and Florida.

Another regional class action has been recently filed in Wisconsin. Like the other four lawsuits, the Wisconsin suit claims that Wal-Mart discriminated against female employees in paying them less than their male counterparts and systematically denying them promotional opportunities. The lawsuit seeks to establish a class of former Wal-Mart employees for the last 15 years.

We find this case interesting not only because of the Supreme Court decision, but because of Wal-Mart’s blithe denials in the face of so many stories and accounts of mistreatment. Indeed, the company is entitled to use all legal resources available to defend itself against lawsuits, but the class action cases are a reflection of the decision-making processes that sometimes occur within large corporate entities.

While the Wisconsin regional class action marks another attempt to allow affected employees to tell their stories, Wal-Mart hopes to have the same result as it did in Texas and Tennessee, where it persuaded the court to dismiss those class action suits.

Source: TopClassActions.com, Wal-Mart hit with fifth regional gender bias class action, February 28, 2013

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