Sex-discrimination case is largest in American history
Washington (9 Feb. 2007) - The largest sex discrimination lawsuit in American history has been given a major boost with a decision by a federal appeals court to allow a complaint lodged against Wal-Mart by six women in 2001 to go forward as a class-action case.
The decision means that more than one million past and present female Wal-Mart employees may seek compensation, an action that could cost the Arkansas-based giant billions of dollars to resolve.
A San Francisco panel of three judges did not rule on the merits of the case but it upheld a 2004 lower court decision in favour of allowing the case to proceed as a class-action issue.
Wal-Mart is now expected to appeal the matter again to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ruling has given hope to long-suffering Wal-Mart staff, to citizens who support social justice and to groups working to expose and correct the anti-labour tactics employed by the world's largest retailer.
"Wal-Mart may have the best legal team money can buy - but even the fanciest of corporate lawyers can't stop the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history," says David Nassar Wal-Mart Watch.
"Thanks to the determination of current and former Wal-Mart employees, their dedicated counsel and the judicial wisdom of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Wal-Mart will face allegations that it actively discriminated against its female employees. This case could cost them close to $20 billion," Nassar predicts.
"This is a historic day for all of us who believe that women deserve equal pay, equal promotions and equal treatment at work."
The charges against Wal-Mart are severe -- but not surprising.
The allegations are that Wal-Mart:
- Advances male employees more quickly than female employees;
- Denies female employees equal job assignments, promotions, training and compensation; and
- Retaliates against those who oppose Wal-Mart's unlawful practices.
- Women comprise only 37.6% of assistant managers, 21.9% of co-managers, and 15.5% of store managers at Wal-Mart.
- About 65% of hourly employees are women, compared to about 33% of management employees.
- From date of hire until being promoted into an assistant manager position it took on average 4.38 years for women, compared to 2.86 years for men.
- To reach store manager, the average male needed 8.64 years compared to 10.12 years for a female.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has signed a formal protocol supporting the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW Canada) in its campaign to organize Wal-Mart workers in Canada. NUPGE