Wal-Mart Accused in Suit of Shortchanging Women on Pay

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) was accused in a lawsuit in Texas of discriminating against female workers, shortchanging them on pay and promotion opportunities.

The Dallas lawsuit, brought on behalf of women working in the company’s Texas stores, was the second filing in two days seeking a statewide or regional class action against Wal-Mart. The filings come in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that barred treatment of gender bias claims as a national class action, according to the women’s lawyers.

Women in California on Oct. 27 amended the original suit by limiting the claims to workers in that state. Lawyers for the California women said they planned to file “an armada of cases” against Wal-Mart by regions or states to replace the national one.

The Texas complaint filed yesterday, in which the named plaintiff is a woman who has worked at Sam’s Club stores in Texas, Oklahoma and California, alleges the company blocked women from promotions and paid them less than men for comparable work. The plaintiff seeks to represent at least 45,000 women working in Texas Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores from Dec. 26, 1998, until at least June 2004.

Supreme Court

“As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different,” David Tovar, a Wal-Mart spokesman, said in an e-mail. “The statewide class that the plaintiffs’ lawyers now propose is no more appropriate than the nationwide class that the Supreme Court has already rejected.”

The original nationwide lawsuit was filed by six current and former Wal-Mart workers alleging discrimination in pay and promotions. The women were granted class-action status in 2004, allowing them to sue as a group. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart appealed and the Supreme Court blocked the nationwide case from going forward, sending it back to district court in San Francisco.

The Texas case is Odle v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 3:11- cv-02954, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas). The California case is Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 01-cv-02252, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco). The Supreme Court case is Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 10-00277, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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