Wal-Mart sued in Texas for gender discrimination
(Reuters) – Wal-Mart Stores Inc. discriminated against female employees in Texas stores in pay and promotion decisions, according to a lawsuit filed on Friday in Federal Court in Dallas.
The complaint is the second to be filed since a nationwide class action against the company was thrown by the Supreme Court in June. On Thursday, a similar set of claims was filed in federal court in California. In both Texas and California, plaintiffs are seeking class action status for female Wal-Mart workers in that state.
Attorneys for female Wal-Mart employees are now pursuing a state-by-state strategy, said Joseph Sellers, an attorney for Cohen Milstein, at a news briefing on Thursday announcing the California lawsuit. Sellers represented plaintiffs in the nationwide lawsuit.
Sellers said that more lawsuits will be filed in different regions in the next three to six months.
Walmart dismissed the lawsuit as groundless.
“As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossitier. “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 Texas lawsuit alleges the company paid women at lower rates than men for similar work and kept them from being promoted to management-track jobs. The complaint names Stephanie Odle, who has worked at Wal-Mart owned Sam’s Club stores in three states and claims she was unfairly denied a promotion.
“Managers in Texas Regions do not require or use valid, job related factors in making the promotion selections,” the lawsuit said. “Wal-Mart’s managers rely on discriminatory stereotypes and biased views about women in making pay and promotion decisions.”
The proposed class of plaintiffs would include at least 45,000 women employed at Texas Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores from December 1998 through at least June 2004.
The plaintiffs are seeking changes in Wal-Mart’s promotion policies in Texas, compensatory relief and punitive damages.
The original class action lawsuit was filed in 2001 on behalf of up to 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers across the country. A federal court in California granted the group class action status in 2004, and Wal-Mart appealed the decision.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling and dismantled the class action. In a 5-4 decision, the court found that female employees in different jobs, with different supervisors, at 3,400 stores nationwide did not have enough in common to be considered together in a single class-action lawsuit.
“Wal-Mart is not the company the plaintiffs’ lawyers say it is,” said Wal-Mart’s Rossitier. “Wal-Mart is a great place for women to work.”
The case is Odle v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, case no. 3:11-cv-02954.
(Additional reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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