Group of 500 Female Wal-Mart Workers File U.S. Bias Claims

More than 500 former and current female Wal-Mart Stores Inc. employees filed sex-discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, their attorneys said.

The filings were made to preserve the women’s claims over pay and promotions against the world’s largest retailer after the U.S. Supreme Court last year said their cases couldn’t be litigated in a nationwide class-action, or group, lawsuit.

“The fight continues to seek justice for the women employees of Wal-Mart,” two of their lawyers, Joseph M. Sellers and Brad Seligman, said in a statement announcing the number of EEOC claims filed through Jan. 27.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision June 20, said the women failed to show a common corporate policy that led to discrimination against workers at thousands of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores across the U.S.

The workers “provide no convincing proof of a company-wide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” said Justice Antonin Scalia in the court’s majority opinion. Such a policy would help justify allowing the claims to proceed as one lawsuit.

While the justices voted to reverse a lower court ruling allowing the women to sue as a group, four members of the high court said they’d have ordered further proceedings.

‘Legitimate Claim’

“Anyone with a legitimate claim should have their day in court,” Greg Rossiter, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, said today in a telephone interview. “These claims have never been heard on their merits.”

Seligman said after the June ruling that “thousands of claims” remained to be filed.

Those individuals who have filed claims thus far are from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina, the attorneys said today, adding that Jan. 27 was a deadline for women living in those states to do so. Those in other states have until May 25 to do so, Seligman and Sellers said in their statement today.

Justine Lisser, a Washington-based spokeswoman for the EEOC, said she couldn’t confirm the accuracy of the figures provided by the lawyers for the Wal-Mart claimants.

“The charge process is confidential,” as required by law, from the filing of claims through investigation and disposition, she said. That changes if the agency files a lawsuit, Lisser said, because the court filings are a matter of public record.

The Supreme Court case was Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, 10-277, U.S. Supreme Court (Washington).

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