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Wal-Mart Agrees to Give Women Extra Time to File Lawsuits

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. agreed that women planning to sue for sex bias after a group lawsuit representing more than 1 million workers was rejected by the Supreme Court should get an extra 90 days to file their cases, a lawyer for the company said today.

Theodore Boutrous, Wal-Mart’s attorney, told a federal judge that the company isn’t opposed to “start the clock fresh” on potential gender-bias claims that were blocked from being filed while Wal-Mart challenged the legality of the group lawsuit, the largest private gender-bias case in U.S. history. Lawyers for workers are seeking to extend the filing deadline by 120 days.

“Our position has always been that people should get their day in court,” said Boutrous after a hearing in federal court in San Francisco today. He said it’s unclear how many women would actually file lawsuits.

Brad Seligman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an interview today that he has been contacted by thousands of women since the case was first filed more than 10 years ago.

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he would rule within a day or two about whether to give potential plaintiffs until Oct. 20, the date favored by Wal-Mart, or Jan. 16, the date favored by lawyers representing current and former workers, to file new cases.

June 20 Ruling

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, won a ruling June 20 that threw out certification of a gender-bias lawsuit representing as many as 1.5 million current and former female workers. The court said the plaintiffs failed to prove Wal-Mart had a nationwide policy that led to gender discrimination.

The group lawsuit was first filed in 2001, and the filing of any new individual gender-bias claims by women covered under the group case was put on hold. Now that the group, or class-action, case has been disbanded, the hold has been lifted.

By law, a plaintiff generally has 180 days from the date of discrimination to file a lawsuit. If a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits discrimination on the same basis, a claimant has 300 days.

The case is Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, 01-2252, U.S. District Court, District of Northern California (San Francisco).

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